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Does Getting Rid of Titles Really Do Away With Corporate Hierarchy?


If you haven’t heard the word “holacracy” yet, you will soon. The term refers to an organization without a traditional organizational hierarchy. Gone are the titles that indicate who gives the orders and who takes them. The question is, does scrubbing titles actually create an egalitarian workplace utopia — or will there always be bosses, regardless of how hard a company tries structure itself without them?

corporate ladder 

(Photo Credit: ambro/

There are a few good reasons to think that we’re stuck with bosses, no matter what we put on their doors.

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1. Most people crave status.

Writing about Zappos’ ongoing experiment with flat management hierarchy in Harvard Business Review’s Blog Network, Harrison Monarth says, essentially, that humans, like all other social animals, are wired to figure out who’s the top dog — that, in fact, they need to know who’s in charge.

“That’s because status is as important to us as breathing,” writes Monarth. “Research shows that perceptions of social status — of ourselves and others — and our overall standing in social hierarchies affect how we make decisions, how altruistic we are, as well as our overall mental and physical health.”

2. Some people have natural leadership qualities.

In any given group, one person will have more leadership qualities than others. Even if no one has the experience or the acumen to lead, someone will be more attractive, more charismatic, or more assertive, and step into the role in an unofficial capacity.

In other words, you can get rid of titles, but you can’t change human nature. Which might be OK, because there are some problems with doing away with titles that have nothing to do with the success of the company. Look at it this way: even if you feel OK about not having a title when you work for your present employer, you’ll probably feel different when it comes time to explain to a hiring manager at another company.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you work for a company without titles? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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