Merits and Demerits of Hierarchy:
Merits- The following are some of the merits of the application of the Principle of Hierarchy.
(1) Clarity of Leadership- In a hierarchical organization, there is clarity of leadership. Authority exclusively belongs to the chief executive at the top who has the eye to search out the hearts of his lowest subordinates and to mould their deeds to his command.
(2) It enables the fixation of responsibility at each level- In a hierarchical organization, authority belongs to the Chief at the top. He delegates his authority to the official just below him, who in turn delegates it to his immediate subordinates. Each official to whom authority is delegated becomes responsible for doing the job entrusted to him. Thus, in a hierarchical organization, responsibility exists at each level.
(3) Effective channel of Communication- Hierarchical organization is based on the universal processes of coordination, communication, and control. Division of work, delegation of authority, enforcement of responsibility, proper communication, and control of all levels are the useful and productive features of a hierarchical organization.
(4) Decentralization is an important feature of a Hierarchical Organization- The Authority of command and control descends from the top downward step by step till it reaches the lowest step of the ladder. Hierarchy has the merits of both decentralization and centralization.
(5) Rule through proper Channel- In a hierarchical organization, each and every order or communication moves through a proper channel i.e., through the immediate superior to the top. In the process, it secures the involvement of all the personnel working at various levels /units of the organization.
(6) Unity of Command- Hierarchical organization makes possible the operation of the principle of unity of command. It provides that one person should be subordinate to only one superior and should receive orders only from the immediate superior. In the absence of such a layout, authority may be undermined or may be in jeopardy.
Demerits- Critics of the principle of hierarchy point out its several demerits. These can be described as under:
(1) Delay in the disposal of Work- According to the critics, a major flaw of the principle of hierarchy is that it is a source of delay in the disposal of work. Every paper has to move step by step and at every step, and in the process, inevitable but harmful delays occur in the organization.
(2) Red Tapism- Because of a large gap between the work to be planned and executed, there emerges the problem of red tapism, delay, and corrupt practices in the working of the organization. Delay and red tapism always breed corruption. They also bring rigidity into an administrative organization.
(3) Top Heavy System- The success or failure of the scalar system, to a very large extent, depends on the personal likings of the head of the organization, the top executive head. If he is a man of high quality and dedication, he can bring life and personal touch to the organization which can be a source of success. If he is not up to the mark, he can be a source of further delay and inefficiency in the organization.
(4) Source of rigidity in the Organization- The principle of hierarchy as a universal principle brings about rigidity in the administrative organization and is not proper for the development of dynamic human relationships among its members. They remain bound up by a network of rules and powers.
After discussing, the merits and demerits of the Principle of Hierarchy or the Scalar Process, we can say that its merits are far more and qualitatively superior to the demerits. In fact, Hierarchy stands accepted as a universally recognized principle of organization. It emphasizes the need for an organic relationship between superiors and subordinates and different units of an organization. The rule “through proper channel” is the essence of hierarchy. It is a pyramidical type of organization with an apex at the top and a broad base at the bottom. There are several successive levels which are both vertical and horizontal. In other words, it is a ladder of authority with various steps. As a principle of organization, it serves as a channel of communication both upwards and downwards, ensuring adherence to problems, decentralizes decision-making, and lessens the burden of the chief executive. Hierarchy is a built-in device to achieve consensus, and for realizing the goals for which an organization is established.