An incident from yesteryears remains etched in my memory. It was late in the evening; I was on a call. My son, who was barely 7-8 years at that time, needed something urgently from me. But he patiently waited for the call to finish. He said, “I knew you were speaking to your boss, so I didn’t disturb.”
This was an organization where everyone was called by first name including the CEO, thus there was no ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’. Yet, he understood from the way I spoke that I was speaking to my manager.
How often do we realize that our tone and pitch of voice, choice of words – all change based on who we are speaking to.
While speaking to someone senior or important, we become deferential. And with juniors, we tend to become a tad authoritative! All this without a trace of awareness or conscious effort from our side. Yet, its easily recognizable even by a child.
Thus, hierarchy is expressed via micro actions, not just through titles or size of the office or reserved parking. The latter undoubtedly matter, what matters more is the micro actions as they trickle in imperceptible ways. For example, they determine who speaks more in meetings, whose ideas are readily accepted and whose go unheard, who is left to do the housekeeping chores!
While the tangible elements can be changed, albeit with some difficulty, the micro elements are invisible and hard to change. They can be changed only through individual awareness and conscious action.