Hierarchy – Advantages and Disadvantages

The term ‘Hierarchy‘ is derived from the Greek term for a ruling body of priests organized into ranks. Literally, the term ‘hierarchy’ means control of the higher over the lower. In administration it means an organization structured in a paramedical fashion with successive steps interlinked with each other, from top to bottom.

According to L. D. White, “Hierarchy consists of the universal application of the superior. Subordinate relationship through a number of levels of responsibility reaching from the top to the bottom of the structure.”

Advantages of Hierarchy

1. The hierarchical system promotes division of labour and specialisation. Responsibility and work is divided between the different levels of administration from top to bottom. A great deal of business is disposed of at the lower levels and only important matters of policy and direction are handed at the top level. This prevents congestion in the flow of business. It relieves the chief executive and other top officers from the burden of attending to minor details.

2. The hierarchy serves as a channel of communication upwards and downwards. Every person in the organisation is aware of the steps through which he has to proceed. He knows from whom he has to get work done and to whom he is answerable for his work.

3. This system gives effect to the method of ̳through proper channel.‘ It ensures that there will be no short circuiting of the procedure or ignoring of the intermediate links. It also promotes discipline in the service as a subordinate officer who is dissatisfied with his immediate boss cannot approach the next higher authority knowledge of the former.

4. It helps to clarify and define the relative position and responsibilities of each and every post in the organisation. Everybody knows that what is the position and what are his powers without any doubt or confusion.

5. The scalar principle is based on the principle of delegation of authority by a superior to his subordinates. It is possible to establish various centres of decision and control without undermining the unity of command.

Disadvantages of Hierarchy

1. The system of hierarchical organisation suffers from the defect of delays in administrative organisation. The procedure of through proper channel causes red- tapism which means delay in disposal of cases. Every paper has to move step by step and at every step it has to wait for certain time. When the superior is too ̳officious‘ or too lazy, the paper may be lost in the files and may be found when it is too late. For e.g. a retired employee‘s pension may be sanctioned after his death.

2. The hierarchy may cause rigidity in administration. Such rigidity is not conducive to the development of dynamic human relationships amongst its members.

3. It creates superior-subordinate relationship due to differences at various levels in the following respects.

  1. Distribution of authority and privileges.
  2. Nature of responsibilities.
  3. Pay scales
  4. Qualifications and quality of the staff.

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