Are You Managing Top-Down or Bottom-Up Or Both?

by Elsa Cardenas

There are only three ways to manage your organization, department or branch – Top-down, Bottom-up or a combination.

What is Top-down management?

– Keeping decision making at the top of the organization

– Setting goals, quotas and direction in the board room or at senior executive level

– Having strategic planning meetings or events that includes only senior management

– Motivating people with fear or incentives only

– Not being willing to listen to lower level employees ideas, suggestions or feedback

– Coaching and reviews are all top-down

– Senior level executives are too involved in the hiring process

– Very little top-down delegation

There’s more but let’s move on.

What is Bottom-up management?

Well we could say the opposite of all of the above to save time but here are a few others.

– Ownership and buy-in of initiatives and projects from lower level employees

– Improved employee performance and effectiveness

– Less wasted resources on activities and programs that don’t last

– More motivated employees

What are the consequences of a top-down style?

– Senior management is not in touch with reality

– Poor employee motivation and performance

– Poor reaction time to the market place and competitors

– Poor customer retention or loyalty

– High sales costs

– Slow growth

– High employee turnover

What are the benefits of a bottom-up style? I’m running out of space so the answer is the opposite of all of the above plus many more.

Are you in touch with whether your management style or your organization is a top-down or bottom-up? Here’s how you can get a fairly accurate picture.

1. Is your corporate direction clear to all employees? If yes, are you sure? How do you


2. Is your culture safe for honest bottom-up feedback or is reality being edited before it

gets to you?

3. Do a lot of decisions, projects, initiatives go bad – sooner or later?

4. Have acquisitions been generally successful over the long term or after time was it

decided that they were a mistake?

5. Is morale lower than it should be or is desirable?

6. Are your employees under a lot of stress?

7. Is communication broken anywhere in the organization – top-down, bottom-up or

department to department?

8. Is their a ‘here we go again’ culture?

9. Are employees more concerned about the success of their own department than the

success of the entire organization?

10. Are you losing some of your better employees?

11. Are sales lagging behind a previous year or years?

12. Is it difficult to hire new really good people?

Can your organization be both top-down and bottom-up?

Yes. And here are some of the benefits.

1. The blending of top-down corporate needs with bottom-up accountability

2. Combining the creative ideas of lower level employees with the vision of senior


3. Improved decision making

4. Faster problem solving

5. Beating the competition

6 . Delighted customers

As you can tell I like lists. The simple reason is that from my experience most people would prefer this bullet approach. If you want more dialog I can supply you with dozens of resources. I have over 750 articles on a variety of management, leadership and supervision topics. Just call me and we can discuss customizing a program for your management team.

This article first appeared on

Elsa Cardenas writes at, where he shares well-researched ideas for better habits, better decision-making and a better life. To get these ideas, you can join his free weekly newsletter here.
His work has been featured in Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Inc. Magazine, Quartz, Thrive Global and more. – 100storyreviews

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