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The Toxic Team: Not-so-flat hierarchy

Flat hierarchy is a team setup, in which there are no, or very few management levels between entry level employees and the management. It's a beloved organization in small companies and start-ups, making everything run leaner, and more efficient.

As long as it works, that is. One of the toxic behaviors is the existence of flat hierarchy, with a powerful shadow figure acting as a hidden management layer. If you ever had a teammate acting as your boss, with no clear dependency between you, they were the shadow figure. It's often an ambitional self-grab of power, or a hint that their ego is inflated. Sometimes it's an unspoken agreement between management, and them.

Tackling such situation requires coordination between the team, and the management—it should be made clear, who is a manager, and who is not. In case there is a need for an additional layer of management, it should be created, or a smaller team should be formed, with the shadow figure as the official leader.

Always remember that communication is the key to happy teams. Asking questions, and being mindful, can solve many issues, before they become serious problems.