No bosses, no managers: the truth behind the ‘flat hierarchy’ facade

Imagine working for a company with no bosses. On your first day, you are given a handbook for new employees. This will be “the greatest professional experience of your life”, you read.

Jeffrey Pfeffer, of Stanford University, points out that many young employees in the tech industry think there is no hierarchy, their boss is their buddy, and work is fun. This is fantasy, Pfeffer says. The lack of formal rules and hierarchy masks a vicious informal power structure. But unlike good old-fashioned hierarchies, there are few checks and balances in place in flat firms. Powerful “barons” can pursue their caprices with few limitations.


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