If you did, you probably were aware of another level in the organizational chart whose entries were far, far distant from your own. They’d go by names such as President, CEO, CFO, and Vice-President. Oh, and they made a lot more money than the first group.
By the very nature of the human beast, conflict between the groups is bound to occur, at least if the organization is large enough. Like a defense contractor, a hospital system, or a university.
And it’s not just because of the enormous difference in income.
I think a major problem is that, while the two levels work for the same organization and may have the same ultimate goals, their jobs are vastly different and not always appreciated by the other group.
After all, the organization makes its money off the efforts of the low-level workers. If a company is known for missiles, they are designed by engineers and built by a production team. Hospitals are created to make the sick well and they achieve that with the efforts of doctors, nurses, social workers, and other patient-oriented staff. Universities are supposed to teach and do basic research and it’s the front-line faculty who are responsible for that. Most of this group wants nothing more than a good work environment, adequate facilities, and fair pay. Many don’t have any desire to promote their way out of jobs they love. They have little knowledge or understanding of what goes on at the highest levels.
But a lot goes on there. I can’t speak with great knowledge about the work requirements since I never dwelled in such lofty towers. Nevertheless, I’m sure there are many concerns about cash flow, obtaining contracts or grants, building adequate facilities so the work can move forward, dealing with taxes, and doing the political schmoozing that seems to be so necessary. I believe these folks have little knowledge of the details of the lower-level work. Could a vice-president mill a part, insert an IV, or guide a student through a crisis?
Perhaps, but the odds are low. Maybe at one time it was more likely, when it was common for a person to start a company and, as it grew, found he or she was at the top of a large organization. During the startup time the founder did mill the part or build the computer. But it seems these days that happens less and less. Now the way to reach the top is to get an MBA and hire out to some organization where immediately the work is oriented more to that at the top levels than to that at the bottom. Now executives hop from one organization to another seemingly largely independent of knowledge of the organization’s product. These people are lifetime managers with little or no experience of the low-level doers.
I think any resentment this dichotomy builds might be eased by more communication between top and bottom, something I rarely observed although my experience at a university was better than in industry. I think that’s because most university leaders have indeed risen through the ranks, starting with teaching and researching. Unless they’re politicians using their power to take top university jobs.
People who do advance through the ranks rise level by level, and at each jump leave behind tasks with which they started and assume new ones not required of the low levels. At some point in the rise they reach “middle” management where they have to be aware of both those below and those above. I believe that might be a difficult position to be in. At a university I think deans are in this unenviable situation (although I don’t think I’ve known more than one dean who felt uncomfortable in that position). From then on, advances take one into the realm of upper levels where little time is devoted to the actual work for which the organization is known.
I don’t have problems with this. It’s just the way it is, and I’ve found it interesting to ponder that similar situations exist over a large range of organizations.