The Difference Between Horizontal and Vertical Organization Structures

Written by kathy adams mcintosh
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Businesses often start with a few employees reporting to the owner. As businesses grow, they need more employees to service the customers and hire more personnel. As the company adds employees, it needs to decide what type of organizational structure to use. The organizational structure determines the number of managers, the number of management levels and the reporting structure for all employees. Companies choose between horizontal organizational structures and vertical structures.

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Horizontal Structure

A horizontal organizational structure uses only a few managers with many employees reporting to each one. Since each manager oversees the work of many team members, she only exercises limited control over the work of each. The employees assume a greater role in managing their own time and completing their work. Only a few levels of management exist in this structure. For example, three managers might oversee the work of 60 employees. These three managers report directly to senior management.

Vertical Structure

A vertical organizational structure uses several managers with only a few employees reporting to each one. Since each manager oversees the work of only a few team members, he exercises greater control over each employee's work. The manager assumes a greater role in managing his employees' own time and ensuring that they finish their work. Several levels of management operate in this structure. In this structure, a manager might oversee the work of four employees. This manager reports to a higher-level manager who reports to another higher-level manager who reports to another manager who reports to senior management.

Employee Impact

These two organizational structures affect the employees' daily work lives in very different ways. Employees working in a horizontal organizational structure need to demonstrate a higher level of responsibility and initiative regarding their own work priorities and meeting deadlines. Employees working in vertical organizational structures receive more direction from their managers and experience less freedom regarding their individual work activities.

Advancement Opportunities

Horizontal organizational structures include only a limited number of management personnel. With few management positions, employees receive only a limited amount of advancement opportunities. Those employees pursuing advancement face significant competition from colleagues. Vertical organizational structures include several levels of management positions. These levels provide more opportunities for employees to advance within the company.

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