Zappos, recently purchased by Amazon, is trying to implement a "holacratic", flat-management system, that has no hierarchy of workers and management. It sounds so wonderfully "egalitarian", but I worked for a company that ran that way, and it was sheer, unmitigated hell.
I worked as a programmer for a Chicago company that coordinated cleanup of Superfund pollution sites. I was hired to be a fulltime FoxPro programmer on accounting systems for the various projects. There was another woman, a part-time programmer, going on maternity leave soon, and she was supposed to train me on the current systems so I could take them over. The company ran on a "flat management system", that had no actual supervisors or managers. Ostensibly, the entire company was a gathering of equals. It sounded nice, and the working conditions were almost sumptuous. The offices were gorgeous, modern, and had amenities I had always wished I could work under. They bought my train pass for me at a deep discount, and ran their own buses between Union Station and the lakefront office building.
As much as humans claim to be all for equality and egalitarianism, they don't work very well in such an environment. Where there is no hierarchy, people will create one. In the absence of official people in charge, people will form their own unofficial hierarchies. The most common of these is the clique. This company was not immune to such things, and the cliquism there was rampant and rabid. The most powerful cliques grabbed the plum projects, and those with no status, or had incurred the wrath of those in more powerful cliques, were relegated to the dirty jobs nobody else wanted.
More importantly, if you didn't "fit in" with the important cliques, you were denied basic services, and found yourself floundering badly in very short order. The place ran on the principle that you had to have a charge code for everything, and you had to account for your entire 8-hour workday with charge codes, or you didn't get your full pay. It was a strange system where salaried employees found themselves effectively hourly wage-slaves, but with a timesheet instead of a time clock. The salaried status was always used in favor of the company, denying anyone overtime, but you rapidly became effectively "hourly" if you had too much overhead time. Strictly speaking, there was supposed to be NO overhead, but that's impossible. No one can maintain a daily routine with no overhead, unless they extend their workday by as much as 30 percent, working a 9 or 10 hour day just to cover 8 with honest work. But nobody did that, as the shuttle buses only ran on a typical 8 1/2-hour day, allowing for a half hour lunch. Not wanting to be stranded halfway across Chicago, trying to catch a train on time, people basically LIED like rugs on their timesheets.
If you were in the good cliques, nobody ever questioned the time codes on your timesheet. If you were in the crap cliques, on crap jobs, there was far more scrutiny, so you wound up working longer hours and taking public transportation, or walking to the train station.
Then, of course, there was the unofficial withholding of services. Remember the part-time woman I was supposed to be trained by? Well, her idea of training was to wave at the computer and say "read the code". She wouldn't explain anything, saying she was too busy. NOTHING is worse than having to blindly trace Someone Else's Code, and to learn a new job that way. It was essentially relegating me to the cornfield. After weeks of stumbling through stuff, and having her suggest false trails and the wrong projects to use as models for current work, I had enough, and went to my "mentor", the closest I had to a supervisor in this "holacratic" office. I stated my case baldly -- I felt I was being sabotaged by someone who didn't want me to succeed. If I did well, it threatened this woman's own part-time position, so she didn't want me to learn anything. She deliberately told me the wrong project to use as a model for a new project, and I wound up not including reports and data the new project required. If the project had actually BEEN one that was suited by the example project, I would have been fine, as I managed to cobble it into shape that would work -- except for the missing information. I pointed out that she should have suggested this OTHER project as a model, which HAD the necessary data. I found it by accident...and she SHOULD have known, she wrote it.
The mentor nodded sagely, and said she'd look into it and get me the help I needed. Instead, as she was a friend of this other programmer, she put me on PROBATION and basically told me that this woman, who was trying to sabotage me, was the one in charge of my probation! And even though told to train me AGAIN, she still refused, once again falling back on "read the code"...which amounts to unsnarling a bowl of spaghetti. Undocumented spaghetti, written largely by a tyro.
Since there WAS no head to go over, and no one to go TO, since there was no "management" per se, I simply decided to cut my losses and leave. As soon as I had a place to go to, I gave my notice and left.
I will never willingly work for a so-called "holacratic" or "flat management" company ever again. They do no one any favors with that nonsense, and only cause backbiting, dishonesty, and rampant cliquism. There's no corporate-level loyalty.
Some complain that capitalists are only out for themselves, out of a sense of greed. Well, these people were the epitome of "fairness" and "equality" -- and were about as trustworthy as the kids from The Lord of the Flies. Hierarchy supports fairness, as without someone to maintain and enforce policy, there's no way to redress grievances except with further grievance.