"Chain of Command"....An Older Management Style and Concept

Brian Beck PHR, MHROD
November 25, 2008 — 4,444 views  
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We all know the X and Y Generations of employees.  They are among us right now.  In fact, the reader of this blog just may be one of these folks.  How is your company turnover?  High, in line, on budget, not sure, perhaps don't even measure it?  Larger areas of concern that employees of today are looking for in their organizations are respect, recognition, and communication.  One very big piece of that puzzle is the concept of chain of command.  It's simply used as a management concept way too often and is not widely accepted by 21st century employees.  Let me go into some detail.

First of all, chain of command has it's moments.  For example, in a hospital situation, there should be a chain of command, or protocol that needs to be covered when a patient codes (stops breathing), and there is.  However, in management situations, no such chain needs to be present these days and in fact, is detrimental to your retention success.  Now, I do encourage employees to go to their supervisor first to address problems and issues, however, if for whatever reason that person feels that they need to step across the line and see someone else, or HR, or a superior, they should have every right to do so without fear of retaliation or retribution.

Unfortunately, it is too common in corporate America these days to hear just the opposite.  There are many managers who use this chain of command in their daily management style and even go so far as to threaten if necessary.  "I heard you went to HR without first contacting me, what's up?", or "I really need you to come to me first before going around me or behind my back."  21st century employees will not tolerate this kind of behavior for long.  You simply end up with higher turnover.  It's just that simple.

Train your managers, directors, C-suite, to avoid the use of this concept of chain of command.  Instead, instill the idea of loving your employees, inspiring your employees, offering servant leadership.  Eliminate threats and "firm but fair" management styles.  It might have worked efficiently in older generations of the workforce, but it doesn't work well today.  Keep in mind that managers and staff with military background will often completely disagree that this concept of management is not favorable with today's workforce.  Work on these people too.  Our military needs chain of command, I wouldn't want it any other way.  However, it doesn't fit today's model of management.

If you have questions about loving, inspiring, engaging and serving your employees, send me an email or give me a call.  Your turnover and service to your customers relies heavily on the balance of these concepts within your workforce.  Good luck!

Brian Beck PHR, MHROD


Brian J. Beck, PHR, M.H.R.O.D., has worked in the human resources field for over 15 years, focusing on recruitment/retention, HR strategic planning, organization and leadership development.