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Pros and Cons of Subordination in Company Work

June 10, 2024
7 min.
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Subordination in business processes is an ambiguous concept because it comes from the military sphere and literally translates as "submission." It sounds quite strict and not attractive at all for employees dreaming of working in "teal" companies.

The truth is that teal holacracy is inherent only to organizations consisting of equal specialists. Often not very large. When there is a founder and managers in the business, the only question is how competent the imperative approach with subordination is. After all, someone will always set tasks, and another will carry them out. Someone will always ask about missed deadlines, and someone has to answer. There are always several options or opinions, and someone needs to make one correct decision.

Subordination in business is the observance of labor relations and job instructions within the hierarchical system of the company.

At the beginning of 2024, we officially introduced subordination into our work processes by prescribing its observance in MediaTen regulations. And today we are ready to share its advantages and disadvantages, and most importantly, explain how and why to document this new term for employees.

Pros of Subordination

Clear understanding of whom to ask for help

A clear and transparent company structure speeds up onboarding and serves as a guide for specialists. It provides an understanding of colleagues' areas of responsibility and competencies, as well as defines the territory of each top manager. If an employee has a task for another department, they direct it to the manager, who then assigns the performer based on their workload.

Quick decision making

The hierarchy of positions allows not wasting time on disputes and defending one's point of view. Specialists suggest options: how to do it, what is needed, and within what time frame. The final choice is up to the manager. In case of failure, they will answer to the higher authority. Successful decisions usually bring rewards to the entire department.

Improvement of corporate climate

Subordination is a mutual process that includes respect for the authority of management and the activities of colleagues. It involves open communication within the team within the framework of work etiquette. 

When an employee is dissatisfied with something, they should not publicly argue, bypass their manager, and go directly to the CEO. They should approach the department head and explain their position privately. If a consensus is not reached, the next step is HR or a joint meeting with higher management, which happens only with the consent of both parties.

Elimination of unnecessary conversations during work hours

Observance of subordination implies interaction based on business etiquette. Each company has the right to determine how strictly to adhere to it and whether to allow deviations from professional ethics canons. In any case, when the concept is officially introduced and punishment for violation is indicated, an employee will think twice before using taboo language or starting irrelevant conversations. 

Streamlined dialogue with the client

If company employees communicate directly with clients, subordination helps regulate sales standards and service delivery. This is not only about prepared scripts but also timely responses to client requests, reactions to their edits, and wishes. Not every specialist realizes how much they influence the company's reputation, but they can meet the standards.

Cons of Subordination 

Deterioration of communication within the company

In the absence of a unified understanding of what subordination is or the desire to "hide behind" it for personal gain, negativity grows in the team. One person thinks they said everything to the point, another feels their personal boundaries are violated, and a third distances themselves to avoid being blamed. Dissatisfaction accumulates, and management is unaware because they smile and say everything is fine.

Demoralization of managers and specialists 

A manager who is new to management risks not noticing violations in subordination and becomes confused in assessing team members' behavior. Team members, in turn, may show disrespect to the manager, making them doubt their competence. Conversely, the manager might undermine specialists' authority by publicly criticizing their mistakes and emphasizing their own superiority.

Employee turnover 

Besides the fact that a person may leave the company due to growing toxicity, the extreme measure for repeated violations of subordination is termination of employment by the company.

All the cons of subordination are consequences of misunderstanding or unwillingness to adhere to job instructions and business ethics. If the latter is eliminated categorically by removing the person from the team, the former requires special attention.

How to Introduce Subordination into the Company 

Disclose the term in public regulations

Define how subordination is determined in your organization. Specify its components and give concrete examples of inappropriate behavior. Then communicate with colleagues or create a survey to understand their perception of the information. 

Ensure proper job descriptions

Subordination relies on job descriptions. They detail not only responsibilities but also whom and how to address specific issues. Anything not documented is left to the employee's discretion. 

Give time for adaptation

Initially, colleagues may be confused about the boundaries of subordination: afraid to cross them or "test" the permissible limits. First, do not sharply criticize deviations from established norms. Observe colleagues' reactions, as they might find it easier to collaborate in a more flexible format. But if you feel oppressed or negative, intervene with a warning and explain the new standards again. Remember that subordination in the company is observed by everyone, regardless of their position. 

We included subordination in the regulations as a hypothesis to see its real benefits. We managed to regulate some operational processes of the company, help newcomers settle in faster, and improve teamwork. Therefore, we can confidently say the decision was correct, but it requires knowing the specifics of your business and its internal life.

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Publication author:

Lubov Azarnova