How to Be Successful in a (Relatively) Flat Organization


Leadership, mentor and business meeting with manager and employee in marketing, strategy and growth.

On the surface, working in a company with a ‘flat’ structure – with very few layers of management – sounds great. Because there are less people between the bottom level of the company and the top, lower-level employees feel like they have a bigger voice and more autonomy.

However, a flat structure means limited opportunities for promotions, title changes, and other conventional markers of career advancement. So, how do you succeed if you don’t think a promotion is likely?

While flat organizations have fewer leadership positions than more hierarchical companies, that doesn’t mean employees at these companies can’t position themselves for a better job in the future. The key is to go beyond the traditional rewards for a job well done and to chase alternative methods of career advancement, such as gaining new abilities and boosting your value.

Below are a few suggestions for achieving career success in a flat organization.

Master Your Niche

In a company with a flat structure, almost every employee has core responsibilities that are directly tied to their skill set. So, software developers develop software and marketing people market goods and/or services. Promoting high performers in these roles to a managerial position would take them away from their core competencies, a big reason these companies don’t offer many promotions.

Therefore, instead of chasing a promotion, you should try to master your niche. This might be done by taking on projects or broadening your skill set. By making your skill set deeper and broader, you are making yourself a more valuable professional and advancing your career.

Step into the Managerial Breach

Without a lot of middle management, there’s a ton of opportunity for employees to speak up and have their voice heard. Taking on projects, developing new solutions, and executing company strategy are all ways you can empower yourself. In the process, you’ll be putting feathers in your cap and adding bullet points to your resume.

Seek out Mentorship Opportunities

While there may not be much hierarchy in a flat organization, new and junior staff members still need guidance. Just because you’re not a formal manager that doesn’t mean you can’t help co-workers and share your knowledge. By coaching other staff members, you not only support your abilities but also show initiative. In addition, helping others can be fulfilling all on its own.

Learn From Others

A flat structure means there are very few barriers between people in an organization. You can take advantage of this by talking to people at every level of your company and learning things you might not otherwise learn in a more hierarchical company. So, find out what it takes to run a company. Learn about someone’s unique background. Discover how you can better collaborate with someone in a different department. You never know when one of these seemingly random conversations will open your eyes to new career possibilities.

Considering your next career move? Join Milestone!

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