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i Maintaining Hierarchies and Social Status

Maintaining Hierarchies and Social Status

An organisation is a self-maintaining system. Thus, a large proportion of its inputs can be used to maintain its processes, rather than delivering outputs. This means that an organisation can satisfy not only the needs of people in its environment, but also the needs of its members. So, once an organisation is established, it will maintain and defend itself through the attitudes and actions of its members, and seek to grow.

Maintenance of the supporting hierarchy. For an individual to maintain his social status, the priority must be to maintain his supporting hierarchy. Without it there is no social status. Thus, if an organisation satisfies a member’s needs, he will adopt a conservative attitude towards it, protect it, defend it, and resist any change which might impact on its function as a personal satisfier.

Adaptation. Because an organisation is a self-maintaining system, its continued existence takes priority over its purpose. Like all self-maintaining systems organisations adapt to their environment. The purpose of the organisation can, therefore, be altered by its upper strata if changes in the environment become a threat to its existence.

Sustaining a hierarchy is more important than sustaining its purpose. A hierarchy can grow out of a shared purpose but, once it is established, sustaining the hierarchy becomes more important to its members than pursuing its purpose. Ultimately, the rewards for status become more important than the purpose that underpins it. For example, China and Russia both largely abandoned the communist ideology, but retained its hierarchy.

Falsification or exaggeration of importance. To justify and sustain an organisation’s continued existence, its higher strata can falsify or exaggerate its purpose. For example, to gain popular support, the benefits that an organisation brings to society or the environment can be exaggerated.

Peer Group appointments & nepotism. A peer group is a group of people with similar characteristics, e.g., members of the same family, gender, class, race, religion, educational background, sexual orientation, and so on. Members of the same peer group share a culture and are, therefore, more likely to understand and support one another. When selecting potential supporters in an organisation there is a tendency, therefore, for the leader to choose those from his or her own peer group. However, if taken to excess this can become self-propagating, leading to one peer group dominating an organisation, and a glass ceiling for those who are not members of it.

Norms and values of obedience. Secular organisations often maintain their hierarchy by incorporating norms and values of obedience to authority into their culture. Religious organisations do the same, but the norms and values of obedience can be much stronger. They include, for example, placing a god or gods at the top of the hierarchy, demanding unquestioning faith in his existence, and requiring unquestioning obedience to his will. Of course, the individuals who claim to know the will of this god are the true heads of the hierarchy and benefit the most from it.  In some cases, an organisation may be both secular and religious. In the past, it was common for kings to claim authority by divine right, and today there remain several nations with theocratic governments.

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