When we arrive at work we have a certain set of ideologies: We want a comfortable environment in order to thrive in our positions, we’d like our co-workers to be compatible with us and each other, and we’d like to be productive to earn the reward of recognition.
These principals are simple enough to understand; yet with a variety of personalities, workplace obstacles, and other factors sometimes the environment is not what it should be.
There are many articles, blogs, and studies that try to identify what makes the workplace a solid environment. Most conclusions address personality differences or characteristics that should be addressed to help workplace cohesiveness, but a recent Harvard Business Review article just proposed a fascinating theory that doesn’t fit the same mold as other publications: “What if one’s structural position in the Organization is the cause of workplace conflict”?
The article continues to state their claim by addressing middle manager-esque positions: an important one to an organisation productive, one that holds enough power to make a difference. Yet, in the eyes of many employees, the middle managers doesn’t get the same amount of respect as other employees within an organisation. Perhaps this position could be deemed “low-status”.
This “low-status” façade could actually be incredibly detrimental to a working environment. According to Harvard, “Employees who occupied positions that lack respect and admiration in the eyes of others (i.e., that lack status) but who simultaneously control important resources (i.e., have considerable power) were the most likely to initiate conflict with others”.
Why the conflict?
Harvard goes on to explain the theory, “lacking status hurts; it makes us feel bad about ourselves and makes us want to act out against others. But when we also lack power, we tend to hold our tongue because acting on our hurt feelings is too risky without the protection of power. Having power, on the other hand, is liberating, allowing us to act on our feelings. So when we are in a role that lacks status but has power, we often feel free to act on our hurt feelings”.
The study boldly questions the structure of organizations. What would the impact be on a company if they rid of middle managers? Is there a way to restructure in a way that eliminates the low-status, powerful position? What do you think the impact on company culture would be with this adjustment?
Let us know your thoughts, do you think there is a strong purpose for middle managers? Or should we rethink how we are working together to create a stronger work environment?