What’s it: Tall organizational structure, in short, a tall structure, is an organizational structure with many managerial layers. It is a pyramid structure with many middle-level managers. The chain of command is long. Thus, communication and decision-making must go through many managerial layers. We see this structure in big companies; Tesco is a good example. Also called the hierarchical structure or pyramid structure.
Large companies have complex operations. Organizations are large and need a tall structure to be effective. They need more managers to oversee and control the day-to-day operations. They tend to have fewer employees reporting to individual managers. Thus, managers can provide greater oversight.
A more distributed managerial role is an advantage of a tall structure. It also allows more control over business operations. However, decision-making and communication are often slow because they have to flow through many managerial layers. In addition, there are fewer opportunities for delegation and autonomy to lower levels, potentially reducing job satisfaction.
What are the characteristics of a tall organizational structure?
Tall organizational structures have many hierarchical levels and involve a long chain of command. For example, a managerial position within a company might involve a vice president, senior manager, manager, assistant manager, and supervisor. The supervisor reports to the assistant manager, who then reports to the manager.
When we draw these positions into an organizational chart, it forms a pyramid. Upper managers have more middle managers as subordinates, each of whom oversees several lower-level managers.
In general, the tall organizational structure has the following characteristics:
- Many managerial layers in the organizational structure
- Pyramid structure to represent authority, control, and communication
- More bureaucratic with concern with procedures and less autonomy
- The tiered authority with the highest position holds the highest power
- Narrow span of control and the manager supervises fewer subordinates
- Long-chain of command and communication because it has to go through many layers
The difference with a flat structure
A flat structure contrasts with a tall structure. It involves fewer managerial layers. For example, the company may not involve senior and assistant manager positions. Thus, their structure includes only vice presidents, managers, and supervisors. Thus, the supervisor will be responsible to the manager, who will report to the vice president.
Because it involves fewer managerial layers, decision-making and communication will be faster than tall structures. In addition, managers have a wide span of control. They have many subordinates to watch over. Thus, their workload is heavier than in tall structures. Finally, they are likely to give subordinates more delegation and autonomy to organize and make decisions about their work area.
Then, is a flat structure better than a tall structure? Not necessarily. The organization’s size is among the factors we need to look at.
Large organizations tend to be more complex and involve many people to supervise. When managers supervise many subordinates, it not only makes their workload complex. However, it also makes control over the organization weak. For example, the manager is negligent. And employees may take personal initiatives without the manager’s approval.
Long story short, the flat structure in large companies makes organizations ineffective. This is because they are not well organized to achieve goals, making it difficult to pursue growth.
What are the advantages of a tall organizational structure?
Companies with a tall organizational structure have more control over operations. Each managerial layer must supervise a few subordinates. Thus, managers can provide more direction to subordinates. In some cases, it gives subordinates a sense of security by reducing their potential for making mistakes in doing the job. Thus, it reduces their chances of getting punished.
Then, tighter supervision and control are beneficial when the company has new people. They may be less skilled and take a long time to adapt. So, companies can encourage managers to guide and direct them to be effective in their work. This is why most factories and other companies employing low-skilled workers prefer tall structures.
Other advantages of tall organizational structure are:
Roles and responsibilities within the organization are distributed over more managerial layers. Companies define specifically their roles and authorities. Thus, it reduces the decision-making burden on more senior management.
In addition, the division reduces confusion in making decisions or responsibilities. For example, the company clarifies who is authorized to make certain decisions. Subordinates also understand to whom they should be responsible and report.
The company specifies a job description for each position. As a result, it leads to job specialization. Thus, overlapping jobs or multiple roles are less likely to occur within the company.
In addition, specialization allows employees to become more proficient in their specific areas. Therefore, they can be more productive by learning by doing or following a specific training program.
More promotion opportunities
Companies have multiple managerial layers, reflecting more opportunities for promotion. Employees see many opportunities to pursue higher careers. Thus, those who are career-oriented become more motivated.
A clear career path also makes it easier for companies to design appropriate training and development programs. Finally, their human resource management has become more well-planned.
Managers supervise fewer subordinates. Thus, they can establish a more personal relationship with their subordinates. Finally, they can provide more support to make their subordinates (and their unit) successful.
And, it is the ideal condition in which managers encourage subordinates to succeed as their way to reach a higher position. However, reality often doesn’t work that way.
What are the disadvantages of a tall organizational structure?
The tall structure does allow for greater control over the organization. But, it also comes with some drawbacks. Cost is the first drawback. Companies must employ multiple middle managers, which is often expensive. As a result, they have to spend a lot of money to pay salaries and benefits, which increase with higher levels.
Apart from higher costs, other disadvantages of tall organizational structures are:
Every decision and communication has to go through many managerial layers. For example, messages have to go through a long chain to decide when a problem arises in the lower layers. As a result, decision-making and response are slower due to a longer process.
Likewise, once the top manager has made a decision, the instructions have to go through the same layers to the lowest level for implementation. As a result, the decision came too late. And the problem may have become more acute.
It all makes companies less flexible in responding to changes in the business environment. As a result, as markets become increasingly competitive, they could be in grave danger. Their competitiveness is destroyed because their organizations are slow to adapt.
Low job satisfaction
Managers are too close to subordinates. For some employees, it may benefit them from getting better support.
However, sometimes their manager is not as good as they expected. So, instead of supporting and empowering them, managers may adopt a tougher approach by closely monitoring and controlling them.
As a result, it could cause problems. Employees are stressed, and their job satisfaction is low. What they do is always closely monitored. Finally, they are less eager to work.
Less autonomy and delegation
Managers have fewer subordinates. Thus, unlike flat structures, they are likely to give subordinates less delegation and autonomy. As a result, subordinates do not have the freedom to organize and control their work.
Managers are more likely to control and closely monitor their subordinates than trust and empower their subordinates. This is because they want subordinates to be more obedient to their orders.
Low control and flexibility make it difficult for employees to develop and realize their ideas. They just wait for orders and do what they are told.
As a result, it is difficult for subordinates to be more creative and bring out their best abilities. Less creativity can lead to less innovation within the company.
Messages have to go through several layers of managers. That raises two problems. First, the communication flow is longer. Thus, the message takes longer to get to the intended person.
Second, the message is distorted. As it passes through layers in the communication chain, information is more likely to be reduced. For example, unfavorable information may not reach top managers in specific cases. As a result, communication becomes less effective because it takes a long time and distorts the message.
What to read next
- Organizational Structure: Why It Matters and What are the types
- Tall Organizational Structure: Characteristics, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Flat Organizational Structure: Characteristics, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Organizational Structure By Hierarchy: Advantages, Disadvantages
- Organizational Structure by Function: Advantages and Disadvantages
- Organizational Structure By Product: Advantages and Disadvantages
- Organizational Structure by Region: Advantages and Disadvantages
- Organizational Structure by Customers: How It Works, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Matrix Structure: How It Works, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Horizontal Organizational Structure: Characteristics, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Vertical Organizational Structure: Characteristics, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Shamrock Organization: How it Works, Advantages and Disadvantages
- Project-Based Organizational Structure: Strengths and Weaknesses
- Centralized Organizational Structure: Advantages, Disadvantages
- Decentralized Organizational Structure: Advantages, Disadvantages
- Formal Organizational Structure: Characteristics, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Informal Organizational Structure: Characteristics, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Multidivisional Structure: Importance, How it Works, Pros, Cons