Ratgeber für MicroUnternehmen

The Significance of Hierarchy in Diverse Cultures

The hierarchy plays a big role in all cultures, but some more so than others. This is obvious from the huge disparities in all cultures between the salaries and benefits of those at the top of a hierarchy and those at the bottom. Strangely, the actual importance of the hierarchy does not play a significant role in the level of those benefits. The president of a major US corporation will earn far more than the President of the USA, which is a far more important position. Of course, far more mystique attaches to the latter position

So although there are differences in the attitudes towards rank in the hierarchy between different cultures and nationalities, there may be as much or more difference in the importance of the hierarchy between different hierarchies within the same culture. However, it would be true to say that countries such as Japan and Korea both have an exaggerated regard for the hierarchy and that managements in the USA and other former colonies tend to be less rigid and formal than the Motherland, the United Kingdom, although the situation in the latter has vastly improved from that which used to hold even a few decades ago.

Strangely a country like Germany, which is often perceived as having a very bureaucracy and rigid (East Germany was always said to be both more rigid and better at ensuring adherence to regulations than the former Soviet Union. The former Communist Bloc was renowned for its surfeit of regulations and control, which was driven by the political credo.

From the management perspective the attitude towards and flexibility of the structure within one's own organisation is an important determinant for the management style one should adopt, although more rigid hierarchies are naturally less tolerant of deviations from the norm and these may be penalized in terms of salary increases and promotion prospects. The hierarchy is also important when dealing with competitors, suppliers and government. It is important to know the hierarchy in order to make approaches at the correct level, where the person will have the authority to give a decision, It is notoriously difficult to get decisions from certain organizations because the person who has the authority does not wish to accept responsibility and the person who urgently needs something does not have the authority to make a decision.

The organizational culture also influences how one should treat subordinate. Being too friendly and approachable in a rigid organization may not be received well, because organizations tend to attract and retain individuals who are temperamentally suited to the culture. Being strict and inflexible in a more easy-going environment will almost certainly be very badly received, unless the manager has demonstrated ability and is known to be fair and concerned for his subordinates.

Overall it can be said that the importance of hierarchy should not be underestimated, even in a seemingly relaxed organization. In fact it can happen that it can be difficult to deal with a less rigid organization because lines of authority and responsibility may not be clear-cut. Avery bureaucratic organization may have staff who are adept at getting around the restrictions and "working the system" to their advantage. One would have said the Army is very rigid, yet it has been said "There are two kinds of quartermaster: one who uses the rules to deny the equipment needed and the other who knows how to use the rules to supply needed equipment, even if it is not part of the established scale."


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