However, use a flat structure work“When I was a kid, the cultural zeitgeist was that hierarchies were bad,” says Andre Spicer, professor of organizational behavior at Bayes Business School in London. He said there was a growing awareness of both the need for structure and the fact of it. They often reappear in companies that reject them, at least in theory. “People aren’t just willing to jump on the bandwagon and say, ‘Yeah, let’s introduce this non-hierarchical structure.’ There’s a certain amount of suspicion there.”
In 2012, Valve’s New Hire Handbook Leaked, revealing its defining characteristics. It avoids managers in favor of an autonomous system where employees can move between projects when they choose.
However, in a 2013 interview, Jeri Ellsworth, former Valve employeesaid of the company, “There was actually a hidden layer of a strong management structure in the company, and it felt like high school.”a report An article published in 2022 by People Make Games, a YouTube channel for investigative reporting on video games, highlights Valve’s issues, particularly around diversity and job evaluation. (Neither Ellsworth nor Valve responded to a request for comment.)
Clifford Oswick, a professor of organizational theory at Bayes College, pointed to the “intrinsic risk” of discrimination in firms with extremely flat structures. Businesses reflect the same biases as society and may not have safeguards in place to avoid them. This means that such companies often “still have middle-aged, privileged white men making the decisions at the top,” Oswick said.
Spicer is particularly critical of startups that have tried, or claimed to have tried, flat structures, suggesting failures—and at least one major scandal—from these workplaces. He pointed to Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, a healthcare tech startup she founded. In a 2015 interview, Holmes said: Theranos said “It’s a very flat organization, and if I’ve learned anything, we’re as good as the worst people on the team.”