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Within any organization there are likely to be several layers of authority. The number of levels depends upon whether the business has a hierarchical or flat structure. A hierarchical structure has many layers of management, each with a narrow span of control. Instructions feed downwards from one level of management to those below. Feedback comes from the lower levels upwards. The reporting system from the top of the hierarchy to the bottom is known as the chain of command. A hierarchical structure enables tight control. It offers clear opportunities for promotion and may reduce stress levels in both managers and employees. Everybody knows their place in the hierarchy.
However, communication can be a problem in hierarchical organizations. Without effective management, it can take a long time for information to pass up and down the chain of command. Staff may not be fully empowered. Rather than being able to use their initiative, employees may need to seek approval for every action from higher levels of managements. This not only can cause delay but also be bad for employee morale, reducing their motivation to work.
A flat line structure is one where there are few layers of management. Each manager has a wide span of control. This means a manager has responsibility for many people or tasks. Delegation is necessary for tasks to be carried out effectively. This structure gives employees more responsibility for their work. Communication is also faster up and down the layers. This enables problems to be solved more quickly.
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