Differentiating the Effects of a Hostile and Beneficial Hierarchy

Part 2 of the Social Hierarchies Series

Last time we talked about social hierarchies and its different parts and how they interact with each other. Before we deal with the nature of the social hierarchy, let’s take a look at how you may fare in each type.

As stated before, social hierarchies are present almost everywhere. It’s likely you’re in one right now. One of the most basic social hierarchies exist in our respective homes—our families.

Many families produce happier and much more productive offsprings, while others don’t. So what does this have to do with social hierarchies? Simple. It’s the effect of the nature of the hierarchy they are in that ultimately impacts how well they behave and perform in the general society.

Although there is a huge number of social hierarchy settings, they are generally categorized into their effects on its members, particularly those who are on the lower levels of the strata. These effects are grouped into two—the hostile and the beneficial.

Let’s begin with the hostile social hierarchy.

A hostile hierarchy may or may not reveal its hostility to its members. It may be masquerading as a beneficial hierarchy (e.g., a corrupt church system or an office setting where your colleagues are “helping” you out) or showing you plainly its nasty colors (e.g., in a school setting where you are almost instantly picked on).

Its members may or may not be aware of its nasty effects, and if they are, they are blinded by the nature of the hierarchy’s leaders.

So what are the indicators of a hostile hierarchy?

The tree is known by the nature of its fruit. The same is true for any kind of social hierarchy. It sounds plain and simple, but in reality, it is a deep and complex interconnection between members and how the connections interact with the hierarchy as a whole. Sounds complicated right? It is, so let’s tear it apart.

A hostile hierarchy is usually run by an elite and small group of people at the top. Although it may look like your opinions matter in the formation of decisions, it’s merely a decoration to help hide the hierarchy’s nastiness. And what happens when there are only a few people who makes all the decisions? Selfishness and polarization of interests.

Just like any other hierarchy, a hostile hierarchy requires a source to feed on, and in this case, its members. A hostile hierarchy keeps a tight grip on its members through the use of manipulation, be it covert or plainly shown. What do I mean?

Imagine this situation. You are short on cash and your kids’ schooling demands more money. You decide to work on this company who knows your problem and “helps” you solve it. The company manipulates you and gives you way more work than what your regular load allows. You’re forced to go overtime but receives the same salary. And if you threaten the system by leaving? They simply remind you of your children’s fate if you leave. You are then forced to stay, no matter how irked you are, because you couldn’t find a much better system.

A hostile hierarchy is usually overrun by individuals who have crab mentality. Crab mentality is a selfish trait where people follow the notion “if I can’t have it, then neither can you.” These people desire personal gain over the collective improvement of the system. They pull people down because they cannot afford to see everyone else succeeding while they are still failing.

In general, members of a hostile hierarchy feel the following:

  • Ripped off (i.e., gaining less than what you deserved)
  • Manipulated/forced
  • Pushed down
  • Worthless

It is also worth noting that a hostile hierarchy acts like a narcissistic entity. It craves attention and a source to feed on. If you have trouble seeing through the fuzzy fog and comprehend the real effects of the organization you are in, it’s best to seek the opinion and advice of your friends and loved ones. They aren’t as blinded as you are and can provide you with valuable inputs which you can use to escape from the clutches of hostility.

Let’s move to the beneficial social hierarchy.

A beneficial social hierarchy is a place where the interests of the collective group are prioritized more than the individual motives of its members. It isn’t flawless but at least takes into account the needs of its members.

Unlike the hostile hierarchy where power and influence are polarized on the upper parts of the strata, the beneficial hierarchy ideally has the powers spread equally throughout the different levels.

Each opinion of its members are considered before making a final decision. As a result, its decision making is much slower but the satisfaction gained by the collective group is much higher.

A beneficial hierarchy is typically described as warm and accommodating, although it may not always show this trait. Some hierarchies, especially those which are broad enough or its members are too widespread, do not exhibit this trait. An example will be the United Nations, which, although wants the best interests of the collective group, doesn’t usually exhibit the trait. This is particularly evident in situations of high tension.

The moral system of a beneficial hierarchy is usually based upon the ideal state of human ethics and behavior. It treats its members in the way that emphasizes and upholds the highest state of human satisfaction.

For example, a beneficial company desires the well-being of its employees. It provides social activities designed to strengthen connection between its members (e.g., team building exercises) and provides good and concrete guidelines to be followed by everyone (e.g., good guidelines on sick leave, vacations, work load, and salary).

Unlike the hostile hierarchy which is described as a narcissistic entity, a beneficial hierarchy may be described as a democratic entity.

Members of a beneficial social hierarchy typically feel the following:

  • Satisfaction and/or happiness
  • Social growth and development
  • An overall sensation of well-being

Conclusion and Side notes

It is important to note that the beneficial and hostile social hierarchies are not as defined as black and white. Rather, they belong to opposite sides of a continuum. A beneficial hierarchy in one setting may be a hostile one in another.

There are also settings wherein one type of hierarchy is much better and well-suited than the other. Take for example a classroom or school which should be a beneficial social hierarchy while the military is much better with a hostile one.

Generally, strict rules and regulations demand a hostile hierarchy while those built on the foundation of development and cooperation require a beneficial one.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Social Hierarchies Series.

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