Chain of Command
Sharlyn Lauby | HR Bartender
March 11, 2010
I always enjoy debates about the chain of command concept. I’ve found most people are completely fine with chain of command as long as things are good (for them). The minute situations turn sour, then employees question why chain of command exists.
Obviously, there are two directions in the chain of command. Up and down. Most of the time, people think first of the upward direction. You know, “when you have an issue…take it to your boss.” There are some exceptions to this, usually surrounding issues of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment, where it’s been documented that you can bypass your immediate supervisor for another representative of management.
I’m sure some people think it’s a pain in the ass when they’re follow the chain of command and address the issue with their boss. But if you think about it … there’s a reason for that. You’d like to think your boss knows the most about you, your job, your work situation, etc. Asking someone else to make a decision might not be fair – to you or them. Not to mention your boss who looks bad because you didn’t give them a chance.
Now you might be saying … my boss doesn’t give a damn about me. That’s a separate issue. Regardless, your boss should be the person you go to about everyday stuff.
The other way chain of command works is downstream. For example, if your boss’ boss (get that?) has something to discuss about you … they should take it to your immediate supervisor. For the same reason mentioned above … your immediate supervisor should be the person who knows the most about you.
There are some examples when a member of management might address a matter with you directly and then follow-up with your boss (like a safety issue). But again, your immediate supervisor should not be left out of the loop. Or they might choose to talk with you and your immediate supervisor together about something – for example, a future promotional opportunity.
While chain of command might seem unfair, unrealistic, and unreasonable some days … it does serve an important purpose. It also emphasizes the value of having an open, honest relationship with your manager.