Guest Post by Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

I look at the world through the lens of equality and collaboration. Because of that, I am always surprised when someone oozes a hierarchical view in every sentence and interaction. It happened again recently and I was amazed that he couldn’t see anything but a hierarchical view.

As the two of us started working on a project, he started behaving as if he were in charge. I noted that we were co-working on the project and suggested we email our ideas to each other for review (since we were in different cities.) His next email to me was: “OK you’re the boss. Anything you decide is fine.” Once again he was living hierarchy. In his view, someone had to be the boss. Since we still needed to get the project done, I sent him my ideas and said that I looked forward to his ideas and feedback. His next reply said simply, approved. Wow. By now, I chose to see the humor in this. It was easier to laugh about it than suffer in frustration.

What do you naturally prefer and feel inside — hierarchy or collaboration? Regardless of whether you are a team member, a team leader, a manager, or the leader of it all, it matters. When natural collaborators and hierarchists (my word for them) try working together, it can be quite a ping pong game. When the difference is left unchecked, it can lower morale and block results as people continue to work in two different modes.

Why Some People Prefer Hierarchy

  • They have a competitive view of success. With one person in charge, everyone else can compete for THE prize. Sometimes they even see natural collaborators as weak people who fear competition.
  • If the model (hierarchy or collaboration) has not been established and communicated, they jump in as “boss” so that others won’t be the boss of them. Natural collaborators would instead ask, “What model are we going to use?”
  • Some aren’t comfortable learning from and with their peers, and that is part of collaboration.
  • To some, hierarchy feels safer than collaboration. Decision making in hierarchy seems faster and less painful. In collaboration, it requires listening, influencing, agility, negotiation, and good people skills.

Why Others Prefer Collaboration

  • They feel more is possible when everyone is an equal contributor.
  • Since they want to feel that their contribution matters, they assume that others want to feel that way. A collaborative is their answer since everyone matters equally.
  • They like the excitement of discovering and learning from other’s perspectives, expertise, and insights. They feel some of this is lost in hierarchy.

Natural collaborators are not spineless weak adults lacking confidence. @KateNasser via @ThinDifference

I won’t claim that either hierarchy or collaboration is automatically better. Some say it depends on the situation and setting.

However, it is essential that the model is clear at the beginning so that people don’t get stuck in the ping pong game between hierarchy and collaboration.

Most importantly, we must develop the skills to work either way. Each of us may prefer one over the other yet success lies in being able to do both at least temporarily ’til the opportunity matches our preferred style.

If you want to strengthen your collaboration skills, here are the 13 people skills you’ll need!

This post was written for Thin Difference blog with ©2018 Kate Nasser. For permission to reprint or republish this post, please email

Guest Post

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, author of Leading Morale started her own business, CAS, Inc., 25+ years ago. She inspires leaders and teams in large & mid-size corporations to the heights great leadership, morale, teamwork, and customer service. In keynotes, workshops, and powerful consultations, she uses humor, facts, and novel engagement techniques to teach how to turn everyday interaction obstacles into supreme success. See her in action on YouTube, interact with her on Twitter in her Sunday morning global #PeopleSkills chat (@KateNasser) and get her book Leading Morale at her website


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What do you prefer in professional situations — hierarchy or collaboration? Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, explains why it's important to decide.