Motivation in the workplace: Kill the hierarchy


BY Tess O'Callaghan

{Project Manager, Designer, Developer}

12 April 2017

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I’ve been in the web development industry over 7 years now. I went from being the Designer to Developer to Designer to Developer. Then, over the past few years, I’ve settled into an office and project management position at Digital Noir.

I don’t think anyone should be a manager in an industry that they haven’t already worked in. Mind you, I don’t think anyone should just become a manager without management skills or experience either. I’ve spent time in a position at the bottom of a hierarchical management flow and it’s not cool. You have someone calling the shots with no understanding of your taskwork, let alone how long it should take. I could go on and on about how that can be detrimental from a business point of view, but I’m here to talk about the positives of the alternative where everyone has a say…

It is actually possible to keep everyone happy and loyal to your business AND make money.

You are not ‘above’ anyone as a manager. You may have different responsibilities, but everyone is coming to work and (usually) working their butts off, so why the hierarchy?

Get buy-in from the team

Stop making decisions and telling everyone what’s going to happen without discussing it first. You don’t need to have 10+ people making the final call, but at least TALK to everyone about it. If you are a good manager, you’ve hired people that are experts at what they do and likely to be better at it than you, so ask their opinion. You’ll end up with a happy team and a better result. This can take more time, but change can’t just happen immediately and it’s definitely not a one-player game.

Creativity can’t be ‘scheduled’

I’m in a creative industry and I’m always getting clients asking for a very specific schedule. To tell you the truth, when a client asks me for something ‘now’, the first thing I do is talk to the designer and ask if they can hit the desired deadline. If not, I work with the client on a good compromise. Give your designer some room to breathe and chances are, you’ll get a much better design than if you rush the process. The designer wants an amazing result just as much as you do.


You can’t really do any of the above without trust. You need a company culture where everyone is honest with each other and the manager trusts the team and vice versa. If I ask Nick if he can hit a tight deadline and he says yes, I expect he will follow through (and he does!). If someone can’t work for some reason, I expect them to let me know. I also hope that everyone on the team can trust me to make decisions with their needs in mind as well as the wishes of the client. If you think about it, they go hand in hand. It’s a balancing act, but if everyone trusts each other, magic can happen.

Team bonding

Taking time out to relax with the whole team is great for working relationships. We have been to Bali, Bounce, Escape Rooms and have had some epic team barbecues. We also have a quick daily card game to just hang out. Don’t be afraid to show a little of your true self whether a manager, team member or even a client! We’re not robots.

This is what works for us. Everyone is an equal, they just have different responsibilities. I manage timing and liaise with clients, Nick designs, David develops… hierarchy only creates a wall where tension and miscommunication can happen, resulting in lower quality or inaccurate work.

Interested? Do some of these things

  • Read “The Game Changer”
  • Do a course at AIM Business School. This is the sort of thing they teach
  • Invite the team for a barbeque
  • Tell a joke
  • Look at yourself – Are you really looking after your team?
Like what you see?
Subscribe now to receive regular updates


Tess O'Callaghan

With experience in all of the elements required to build an outstanding website (plus organisation, creativity and great communication skills!), Tess oversees all of our web projects. Never taking her finger off the pulse, she will be your guiding star during your time working with Digital Noir.