An Introductory Guide to the Corporate Chain of Command [+Examples]

Chain of Command

If there’s one management process that can foster collaboration, innovation, productivity, job satisfaction, and more, it’s a well-designed and thoughtfully implemented chain of command.

A chain of command describes who employees should report to and when they should consult their supervisor with project decisions. Not only is it part and parcel of a company’s hierarchy, but it’s essential to creating an efficient and enjoyable work environment for your employees. The right chain of command can make employees feel supported, respected, and excited to contribute new ideas to the company.

This guide covers the basics of the chain of command so you can better incorporate the process into your organization’s hierarchy and org chart design. We’ll cover:

The Importance of Chain of Command

Every member of your company is at a different point in their career and has different levels of experience. A chain of command provides support to less experienced employees so they can feel confident enough to suggest innovative ideas and develop their skills.

A chain of command also creates a culture of collaboration and an environment of physical and emotional safety, all while protecting the company from unnecessary risks.

A company in any industry, whether it’s software or construction, likely has or needs a chain of command in order to operate at its best.

The Hierarchy of Corporate Titles

The Hierarchy of Corporate Titles

Many large businesses and organizations are split into three tiers: senior management, middle management, and regular employees. Any additional tiers, and the chain of command may become too complex to work efficiently.

Common corporate job titles include:

Senior Management

Middle Management

Regular Employees

These are the individual contributors who don’t manage other employees, such as financial analysts, HR generalists, or sales reps. Their titles and specialties tend to be industry-specific. It’s worth noting that the smaller the business, the less likely it is to have distinct tiers, as employees take on multiple roles to help the company reach its goals.

Chain of Command Advantages

A clear chain of command promotes:

Chain of Command Disadvantages

Implemented thoughtlessly, chains of command can create:

Examples of Chain of Command in Business

The exact chain of command will depend on your company’s industry and what duties are essential to running the business, but these examples should help you get started:

Marketing Agency

The above is an organizational chart for a marketing agency. There are multiple chains of command, each grouped by division, with three levels in each. Individual contributors report to their director, who in turn reports to the CEO.

Tech Company

The org chart example for tech companies above shows two chains of command within the sales division. Both the Sales Manager and the VP of Sales have employees who report to them, and they in turn report directly to the Chief Revenue Officer, who reports to the CEO.

Large Restaurant

In this restaurant org chart template, there are three chains that funnel up to the General Manager, who answers to the Restaurant Owner.

Create Your Company’s Chain of Command

When you design a chain of command with the intention of supporting employees at all levels of your org, you start to build a culture of clear communication, efficient workflows, and mutual respect. The key is to think critically about which roles are best equipped to serve and guide the team at each tier, and to not overburden the chain with more layers than are absolutely necessary.

Looking for more org chart samples? Check out Pingboard’s templates, which are based on data from thousands of org charts in multiple industries.

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