Employees are considered pillars of every organization. If motivated by a good leader with an effective leadership style, they can commit to collaboration. However, a number of business owners and managers use a type of organizational style that critics say emphasizes the power of the upper management and make or force the subordinates to follow what they, the former, want them to do. This is what is known as the top-down management style, also referred to as “command-and-control” initiative.
What Is a Top-Down Management Style?
This is a traditional management style used by most organizations, particularly small businesses with only two layers; employer and employees. In this management theory, decisions and planning only come from the top management, leaving subordinates to follow what is told of them. Here, the owner or as the case may be, board of directors generates come up with a vision and mission then set strategic goals which will be conveyed down to the corporate ladder. Employees will be under an authoritarian leadership and become passive. Whatever the decisions of the management are will be reinforced throughout the organization.
This organizational structure was said to have been pioneered in the 1870s the father of scientific management, Mechanical Engineer Frederick Taylor who had the habit of shouting at employees and enforcing methods. He believed that enforcement of adoption of standards as well as cooperation lie solely on management. Moreover, it was his principle that employees or workers are to be scientifically selected and trained instead of letting them learn on their own, a style that bred resentment from his subordinates and led to strikes. Other great leaders who have also used this principle were Napoleon Bonaparte and Alexander the Great. Here is a look at how a top-down manager handles the seven different aspects of running an organization.
1. Problem Solving
When it comes to issues in the organization, traditional corporate managers or top management are the ones who solve these problems and convey it to their subordinates. Employees are not allowed to give suggestions and brainstorm with them.
For employers practicing a top-down management style, information is entitled to them alone. Whether it is a positive or negative development, it is the discretion of the management if they will share it to low-ranked employees.
When it comes to power, it belongs only to traditional leaders and not shared by the team. For them, the longer one stays with the organization, the higher the chances of a brighter career and the more powerful he or she becomes.
Albeit top-down managers will be open to suggestions once in a while from the team but decisions will come from management and the process will be kept from the team. Employees will only know of the decision after it has been made and all they can do is to heed and follow.
5. Rules and Responsibilities
In this type of culture, every member of the team is given rules and responsibilities that he or she will strictly follow. Roles are given to them which can often affect creativity and lead to members working on their own, without collaboration with other team members.
When it comes to allocation of resources for projects, it is in the discretion of the upper management when and where to provide resources for the departments of the organization. Often, the process and delivery of resources take long periods of time.
In a traditional leadership such as top-down management style, employees are evaluated annually by peers and management and not on a daily basis. With this approach, it can affect a worker’s morale and performance since accomplishments are not recognized as they are achieved but yearly.
Benefits and Setbacks of Top-Down Management Style
One of the advantages of this type of management is a unified and solidified organization since it has one command, standard and direction. It is said to work best for manufacturing companies since it can lead to same product standards and quality that consumers expect to have. Moreover, workers and employees will have to comply with the same standards and policies which will prevent confusion when problems arise. Case in point, there is a problem or conflict within a certain department that has not been addressed properly and resolved. An authoritative manager will be the one to provide solution to the situation.
Another advantage is enforcing employees to perform their tasks even if they do not have the confidence to carry out what they need to do. Also, this traditional culture offers a venue for leaders to hone and show their leadership skills. The confidence and assertiveness shown by leaders will also inspire their subordinates and make them follow what is asked of them to do.
As for the disadvantages of this practice, employees are not given a venue to speak for themselves and practice autonomy. This can often lead to complaints and dissatisfaction by member of the team as well as fast turnaround of employees. Another setback is its effect on the morale of employees because all the decisions come from upper management.
Despite the criticisms on this management style, experts suggest that there are times this is the best approach to use.
1. The manager is an expert on the situation at hand.
When decisions need to be made right away and there is no time to brainstorm and compare different points of view, a leader who has expertise on the matter is the best person for the job.
2. Members of the team are not confident and competent to address a major concern.
If there are clients who are difficult and who will not listen to employees handling the account, top managers and leaders can step up to the plate.
3. When a protocol needs to be broken or a major expense is called for.
With a top-down management style of leadership, it will be easier for top managers to make decisions without putting employees in a bad situation. By deciding on their own despite the risks of the outcome, impact will be solely on them.
A top-down management style or traditional leadership style is still applied by many organizations, particularly by manufacturers although some companies are starting to change their management styles, allowing for collaboration from employees. Some apply both styles and experts say this is a better approach to use.