Many organizations claim they are flat. But very few truly are. When most describe flat organizations, they think of an open door policy, everyone sitting in cubicles, being easily approachable etc. However, this does not mean that they are a ‘flat’ organization. Even in such organizations, when employees are asked how often they interact with the top leaders of the organization, the results are surprisingly low. At best they may have a good connection with their second level manager (their manager’s manager). In such organizations, management still drives all decisions and employees are told what to do. They have little or no say in what goes on in the company.
When I talk about a flat organization, I generally refer to an organization where employees are treated like adults and they are trusted. The managers believe that employees’ actions are in alignment with the best interests of the organization. Their judgment is not questioned. Top organizations also encourage feedback from all employees. Everyone is encouraged to think about how to improve existing processes (to make their work easier and the customers experience better). Such expressions of ideas are generally manifested through specific days when employees’ ideas are celebrated.
The result of treating employees like adults is that they feel valued and they know that their opinion matters. They are also more autonomous and are more involved in their job. While some people may take advantage of this autonomy, the overall positives outweigh the negatives.
How does your organization treat you? Let me know in the comments below!