“Gripes go up, not down.”

In “Saving Private Ryan,” Capt. Miller, played by Tom Hanks, explains this important lesson in leadership to Pvt. Reiben. Leaders can complain up to their superiors but not down to their followers.

Just like in the military, rank and chain of command are essential for effective management and communication in your business. Team members report to their immediate superiors, these team leaders report to their managers, who then report to the chief operating officer when absolutely necessary. Once an issue is resolved, the answer makes its way back down the chain in the same way.

Why is it important to follow the chain of command in the workplace? Here are three reasons.

1. The chain shows respect. Do not complain to your peers in the workplace. This is essentially gossip. Likewise, do not jump over your supervisor and feed complaints directly to upper management. CEOs and COOs do not have time to take care of every complaint in the office.

Not only do these actions show disrespect to your immediate supervisor, but they also create mistrust. Both reflect poorly on you.

2. The chain creates efficiency. When reporting problems or communicating with the team, an established chain of command creates efficiency and actualizes change.

Your manager is responsible for making sure you are happy and productive at work. So, if you have a problem, bring it to him or her to take action. Your peers cannot help you when an issue arises, but your supervisor can.

3. The chain improves morale. A complete disregard for the chain of command results in disorder. Build a strong, trusting relationship with your direct supervisor, the liaison between you and higher management, in order to develop a rhythm of effective communication. With this in place, the organization will work together more seamlessly and people will be happier, reducing confusion and turnover.

Remember that the chain goes both ways. Set a good example for your team members by observing the structure of command and they will likely follow suit, making for a much happier (and less chaotic) work environment.


This story was originally published in The Tennessean.