Rules of subordination at work – learning the general outline

Subordination at work: the rules and consequences of non-compliance. Boss – subordinate. Subordination between colleagues

Such a concept as subordination at work is understood as a set of rules of business etiquette, whose function is to establish relationships among employees of the team. This concept refers to the rules of communication both with superiors and among subordinates. Subordination is associated with respect for superior authority, compliance with orders, culture and manifestations of personal initiative, as well as the occupation by each employee of a particular niche.

Who is obligated to abide by it

It is not unique to subordinates. The duties of any manager imply similar compliance with the principles of business ethics, giving orders that have a correct form, the absence of attempts to humiliate junior in rank and criticize their personal qualities.

There is always a certain order in giving executive orders to subordinates. At the same time, it is the responsibility of each employee to have an understanding of the acceptable forms adopted by the organization in which work is reported to management. In certain situations, a lower level employee has the right to appeal the actions of whoever his or her immediate supervisor is.

Why workplace subordination is so important

There’s a lot of talk these days about business partnerships that allow any employee to become one member of the team. This ultimately strengthens the corporate culture and helps solve common problems. The function of partnership is to work out important goals and how to achieve them. The subordination helps to maintain a healthy atmosphere in the team, avoiding familiarity, conflicts, insults, and disrespectful treatment.

What are the rules of subordination? If there are no such officially established norms in an enterprise, the work process can be disorganized. Any employee has the right to know who can (in fact – must) give him the necessary advice, from whom to expect instructions, and whose duty it is to obey. If the structure is large enough, without a clear regulation can not do without. In such cases, as a rule, the principles of subordination of some divisions to other divisions are prescribed. Documents regulating the principles of subordination – specific orders and instructions, as well as the charter of the organization.

Where it is written about it

The service hierarchy is also built according to the principles set out in specific documents – job descriptions, rules of internal order, clauses of the collective agreement. They are also contained in the text of the employment agreement concluded between the employer and the employee.

Certain structures (for example, the army) imply wearing special insignia in the form of uniforms, etc., but in small companies the main pivot around which the subordination in the team is built is supervisory authority.

A new employee should be acquainted with the basic principles of corporate ethics immediately after he/she is hired. This takes place during negotiations about his duties, powers and responsibilities.

What it is like

Working relationships can be vertical or horizontal. What is meant by that? The names speak for themselves. The first (vertical) relationships are top-down (supervisor-subordinate) and bottom-up (employee-manager). Speaking of them, by default, implies obedience to the orders of senior management.

A real boss who adheres to the rules of corporate culture will never tolerate pannibalism towards those in lower positions. Distance should always be kept in order to avoid work problems, and mutually. There are situations of inappropriate behavior from the side of the employees towards the manager. This may manifest itself in banter or inappropriate categorical tone.

Such familiarity backfires on the employees. Regularly violating the principles of subordination are usually the first candidates for downsizing. For his part, the head, delving into the personal problems of subordinates, capable of sharing with them private experiences, forgiving the lack of obligation and indiscipline, behaves shortsightedly, and eventually loses the authority assigned to the position.

Is the boss always right?

But, of course, in all good measure. Many modern managers suffer just the opposite qualities – do not hesitate to behave arrogantly or treat their subordinates with undisguised contempt. Of course, the improvement of the working environment of all these extremes is not conducive.

Overly authoritarian style of leadership is accompanied by a reduced level of initiative employees. When there is only a constant flow of commands, orders and instructions from their superiors, subordinates automatically lose interest in the essence of the production process and are focused only on blind (sometimes formal) performance of the instructions. When an emergency situation arises, you can’t expect them to be responsible, nor can you expect them to make the right decision, which is not supported by an order from the management.

A flexible style of interaction with subordinates is much more productive. The manager may well afford some deviations from the rules in those situations where it is necessary to listen to an independent point of view. This is the case for meetings and brainstorming sessions, when the decision is made by applying joint efforts, and optimally work out a plan of further operations.

How to communicate with peers

Horizontal relationships are those that are characteristic of communication between peers at the same level in their own environment. This also includes those that develop between supervisors who are peers. It is a subordination between colleagues of the same “weight category”. Horizontal relations are built on the principles of partnership and equality. The postulates of corporate ethics are based on benevolent interactions in the work environment, fair distribution of workload.

Attempts to belittle and constantly criticize coworkers are unacceptable. Any employee who professes this line of behavior risks irrevocably ruining relations in the collective. And not every manager will tolerate in a working environment squabbler.

It is no secret that in any team sometimes there are cases of attempts to shift employees’ own duties on the shoulders of colleagues, using, for example, friendly relations. But the slacker in the workplace sooner or later is still calculated and punished in both disciplinary and monetary terms.

When the deputy director is out of a job

What are the most frequent mistakes that can be cited as typical examples of violations of the principles of subordination? One of them – the most common – is giving orders to a subordinate by a higher authority, bypassing the subordinate’s direct supervisor. For example, the head of a shop tries to give instructions to the workers bypassing the foreman or foreman’s supervisor. Thus, the authority of the head of the unit may be significantly reduced, and workers no longer take him seriously.

Such an error leads to an imbalance in the manageability of the entire corporate system. The director should not include in the circle of his many responsibilities the additional load concerning the management of personnel. The task of controlling the execution of his assignments is the business of another employee.

Another danger is that the supervising link (the immediate boss or deputy director) sometimes sins at his own discretion and demands that the work process be organized to his own taste. In order to avoid misunderstandings, his powers should be clearly specified right away. The danger is that the main supervisor may not know all the subtleties of the situation. In the example mentioned above, the shop manager assigns the foreman only the clearly specified and fixed by the job description functions.

Other errors

Thirdly, two different people are assigned to carry out the same task. In this case the work process can be disoriented, since there is a serious risk of shifting responsibility from one person to the other.

There are very frequent cases of addressing the top management, bypassing the immediate superior. It is customary to first notify the head of the subdivision directly about the problem encountered.

The inability to prioritize also belongs to the manifestations of the broken subordination at work. The task of the executor is to have a clear idea of what of the planned activities must be performed immediately and what can be postponed for the next few days.

About rudeness and tactlessness

If you criticize the boss behind his back, such behavior not only violates the chain of command, but is frankly unethical. Such criticism sooner or later will reach the ears of management. And those who are “smart enough” to emphasize the incompetence of the superior in the event of a public conflict run the greatest risk. Management, as a rule, does not forgive anyone for undermining their own authority.

Among the most tactless and coarse violations of the chain of command are attempts to criticize the personal qualities of employees rather than their performance. This also includes a rude tone in expressing negative evaluations of work performed, which in all cases without exception produces a grievous impression.

When criticising an employee or a subordinate, it is important to strive to improve his or her work and the work of the whole organisation. In attempting to discuss behavior, there must be no desire to humiliate or demonstrate power.

Sometimes in teams, large and small, the chain of command at work, as well as the ethics of business communication, are completely absent. This is especially a sin in small structures where everyone knows each other quite well. Addressing people by the word “you” is not always appropriate in a business environment, it blurs the boundaries between superiors and subordinates, and it is difficult for a junior employee in such an atmosphere to perceive management in its true light. He becomes less motivated to follow instructions without reservation.

What to be wary of

What are the consequences of failing to respect the chain of command at work? All manifestations of flippant relations with the management, lack of compliance with his instructions, incorrect criticism, one way or another, affect the business principles of the enterprise and markedly reduce the authority of management. As a consequence, in such corporations one can observe rampant disciplinary measures in the form of reprimands, admonitions, deprivation of bonuses, etc. And the ultimate measure of retribution for errors against the chain of command is dismissal.

“You” or “you”: the rules of the chain of command at work

Addressing seniors as “you” or “you” is not only a matter of etiquette. It is also an opportunity to build competent relationships with the team, mark or erase boundaries and create the right atmosphere.

Norms and traditions

The form of communication in the team is regulated neither by the Labor Code nor by local normative acts. It is fixed in the rules and similar documents. The rules are more of a recommendatory nature.

– In IT even at the interview the candidate can address a future employer on the “you” side, and this is normal. Such communication is due to the fact that in the field of information technology came a lot of young people under 30 years. These people quickly established themselves as professionals, reached the level of wages, which allows you to speak on equal terms with other professionals in the market, – said the head of the company “Megaplan” Sergey Kozlov.

– In the federal authorities it is customary to speak to managers and colleagues on a “you” basis. On the “you” is acceptable only with close friends in an informal setting. You may receive a bad characteristic because of your flirtatiousness. You need to control your behavior in any situation, even at the celebration of his own birthday – the lawyer of bankruptcy of individuals and individual entrepreneurs Sergey Chekunov.

– Doctors (that’s them, not the rest of the medical staff) often address each other as “you” but by their first and patronymic names. In medical circles, this is a sign of inclusion in the professional community. And such a quirky combination indicates recognition by colleagues,” says ICL Services’ Lead HR Manager Marina Markelova.

If everyone in the company addresses each other as “you” and one person as “you”, it is not an advantage, but a sign of disrespect. In the reverse situation, when communication on the “you” is the norm, “you” demonstrates respect and distance.

It’s better to be “you.”

1.When dealing with difficult tasks all the time

– Talking to employees on a “you” basis helps in situations where something goes wrong in the work process. Telling the supervisor about the problem without unnecessary formalities is easier: you don’t need to choose special words so as not to break the chain of command. Instead, you talk directly about the problem”, says Philipp Shchirov, director and cofounder of cloud business automation service “Altap”.

2. When you often communicate informally

– We hold corporate events in our company all the time, for example, we go to Sheregesh, and recently held a bike ride in Altai. It would be strange during the race to shout: “Vitaly Sergeevich, move over, please”, considering that together you have covered 200 kilometers on a bicycle. We have a lot of activities to bring together employees and partners, and of course the vast majority communicate on the “you”, – says HR director of the international network of car services FIT SERVICE Svetlana Solovyova.


It’s better to use the word “you”.

1.When communicating outside the company

– At public events with the participation of outsiders (interdepartmental meeting, presentation of the project to the client, report to the board of directors, etc.) there is always formal treatment by name and patronymic,” says Anton Palyulin, managing partner of the law firm Paliulin & Associates.

2. When the company has many branches

For people who have never seen each other it is psychologically difficult to change to “you” at once, especially if there is a big difference in age.

3. When the management style is authoritarian rather than democratic

“You” suits young teams, startups, small teams. But if you have a company with a clear hierarchy, and there is no equality between employees, because they stand on different levels, then “you” will only confuse. Addressing to “you” implies the absence of barriers, but it is not always good for business.

Pros and cons of each option

Addressing people as “you” is thought to show respect, but in many companies today that statement is challenged.

– Authority is not “lived till so long, that’s why you call me by my first name and patronymic”, but competence, knowledge and experience. It is impossible to know everything, we are all always learning something, and you can learn from someone who is younger in age and position. And the best position for learning is on an equal footing,” Mikhail Filippenko, General Director of Fast Reports, is convinced.

“You” gives more freedom, creates a creative atmosphere, removes unnecessary barriers. But not all people are ready for this kind of treatment, especially the older generation: they may just be uncomfortable. It is better not to create unnecessary inconvenience, and address with the usual “You”. Another disadvantage of “poking” is just the lack of barriers. Before removing them, think about whether the team needs it?

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