Agile Thinking

Is Hierarchy Bad for Motivation?

Pawel Brodzinski finds that autonomy and mastery are two major elements in dictating an employee’s motivation to work. Does hierarchy get in the way of these elements? Brodzinski explores this question in a post at his blog.

Mastering Motivation

Brodzinski fortunately has enough autonomy in his workload that he can devise time to pursue mastery, but when it comes to software development, the two go hand-in-hand. Someone who is given the freedom to build interesting things will likely pick up a new trick or two along the way. However, autonomy often finds itself at odds with hierarchy. Except for maybe a CEO, everybody reports to somebody, restricting how much freedom is available to experiment and pursue higher excellence.

More problematically to Brodzinski, power is often distributed rigidly, so that one layer of management has “these” powers, another layer of management has “those” powers, etc. This is done so as to limit the sorts of decisions that can be made within a given sphere, which is a sort of rudimentary risk management. But when the sorts of decision-making a given person can be involved in are restricted, it discourages an employee from thinking critically about higher-level decisions at all. Brodzinski ultimately concludes:

It brings us to a sad realization. The most common organizational structures actively discourage autonomy and authority distribution…Gallup [ran] a global survey on employee engagement. The bottom line is that only 13% of employees are engaged in work. Thirteen. It would have been a shock if not the fact that we just proposed that one of the current management paradigms – a prevalent organizational structure – is unsuitable to introduce autonomy across the board and thus high levels of motivation.

Brodzinski believes we must find better ways to address decision-making risks, ways that impede upon employee autonomy as little as possible. Autonomy allows for mastery, and mastery begets satisfaction. You can read the original post here:

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