Blowing Up Traditional Workplace Hierarchy With Sideways Management

by Chris Rhatigan on Mar 16, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Blowing Up Traditional Workplace Hierarchy With Sideways Management by TINYpulseWe here at TINYpulse are predicting that managing sideways will be a growing trend in 2016. The top-down hierarchy has lost relevance — and smart organizations are looking for employees to push their peers to become better professionals. By allowing employees to exert more control, you can create a workplace that’s focused on accountability.

In our Employee Engagement Report, we found that 35% of employees are frustrated by their colleagues’ lack of follow-through. One way to remedy this is for employees to provide each other with consistent, valuable feedback — in other words, to have employees manage each other. This already happens naturally in small ways: for example, onboarding new employees who are trained by their peers. Managing sideways expands on this by building a team of engaged employees ready to tackle any problem together.

But if done haphazardly, a feedback loop could cause friction. No one wants the workplace to devolve into employees constantly criticizing one another. Luckily, there are ways to incorporate this more fluid management style without it descending into chaos.


1. Demonstrate humility

It’s the basic rule of leading by example. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. Start initiatives designed by employees. Pitch in with routine duties that aren’t part of your job description.

When a project succeeds, be sure to spread credit around. Let everyone know what an excellent job they’ve done. Conversely, avoid blaming others when things don’t work out.


2. Delegate to capable people

How well do you know your team? Don’t simply delegate to the person with the right job title — delegate to the right person. Knowing your staff’s personalities and strengths will give you an advantage in encouraging collaboration.

Make sure that initiatives are run by confident but humble employees. By divvying up responsibilities in this way, you’ll show that you value your employees’ perspectives.


3. Focus on long-term outcomes

Blowing Up Traditional Workplace Hierarchy With Sideways Management by TINYpulse

Trust that the employees you’ve delegated to will get the job done. Give them broad but achievable outcomes and let them decide how to reach those goals.

If you delegate and then micromanage, well, then you haven’t really delegated! It may take employees a little while to adjust to additional responsibility, but they may surprise you with the solutions they devise.


4. Keep your finger on the pulse

The only way to ensure that the feedback loop is running smoothly is to check in regularly with your staff. See how they’re interacting with one another. Look for ways to provide support, but be careful not to intrude on progress.  


5. Encourage employees to give each other constructive feedback

Blowing Up Traditional Workplace Hierarchy With Sideways Management by TINYpulse

To prevent managing sideways from leading to tension, show your employees how to offer specific, observation-based feedback. This way you’ll avoid personal squabbles.

Remember to welcome criticism yourself too. Using feedback to improve is crucial to growing a productive organization.


6. Encourage face-to-face communication

Blowing Up Traditional Workplace Hierarchy With Sideways Management by TINYpulse

It’s always easier to skip a potentially awkward meeting and just send an email. But in this era of instant communication, talking one-on-one is still valuable.


When two employees are discussing problems with a project, you want their communication to be crystal clear. If they’re both in the room and can see each other’s body language and hear each other’s tone of speech, they’ll be that much more likely to get the message.

Creating a workplace where employees value each other’s feedback as much as their supervisor’s isn’t easy. But it’s necessary if you want to foster a culture focused on collaboration and productivity.



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This post was written by Chris Rhatigan

Chris Rhatigan is a freelance writer and editor. He is a former newspaper reporter for The New Haven Register and The Iowa City Press-Citizen. He enjoys playing old video games, studying (and trying to speak) Hindi, and walking his dog on the local trails. He lives in India.