On Rank

Another brief, off-the-cuff musing:

I recently had a colleague from a different department, who is unfamiliar with our office, ask me “who was higher” between some of my direct coworkers and myself.  It got me thinking – are some of my office-mates “higher” than me?  Could they pull seniority or rank on group projects?  And importantly, does this matter at all?

I’m going to start with the latter portion of my musing: does this matter?  In terms of getting work done, I’m sure that there are many arguments that a reporting structure is important.  However, since all of my direct coworkers and I are constantly working together  for the same goal, the reporting structure is irrelevant.  We need each other to be in communication and to be willing to partner with another in order to do our job.  Therefore, I will argue that the “rank” of my coworkers and I is unimportant insofar as to whether or not it impacts our goals.

That argued, the University is a place of culture, it’s a place of tradition, and it certainly is a place of slow-paced change.  Those who have put the work in for 10, 20, or 30 years generally are rewarded with more senior positions or human resource classification (better pay and benefits).  Accordingly, they are, alongside the students, probably the best source for campus “ways of doing things.” In that matter, someone who is new to the University probably owes a consider respect for those individuals (until I eventually become one of them).

In terms of the “organizational chart” frame, however, no person is “higher” than me except for my supervisor and most of my colleagues report to the same individual.  Further, while my human resources classification is more junior than most of my colleagues’ classification, I still am only reporting to that one individual.  And similarly, this is likely a product of the function and goals of our office – it’s a “flat” organizational structure that enables us to to work together in order to work within our mission.

I would pose the same question to anyone in a work environment with team-based goals: what does your office look like?  And how does it help you accomplish your goals?  And, just as I was asked, could “ranking” help or hinder some of the employees’ capacity to get work done?

Dilbert

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