Home » Blog » Subordination in the Workplace + Advice for Managers

Subordination in the Workplace + Advice for Managers

As an organization grows and expands, its hierarchical structure becomes more complex. Beyond just managers overseeing subordinates, you start to have managers supervising other managers. This is why the issue of coordinating formal relationships within a team arises. In this article, we will discuss the rules of subordination.

Subordination and Basic Rules

Subordination is the professional relationships built on hierarchical principles, aimed at maintaining a distance between managers and subordinates.


The rules of subordination may have some differences in various organizations, although they are generally based on common etiquette principles:


  1. The first thing that all employees should do, regardless of age, status, or position, is to greet each other. Greet everyone, from top management to security personnel and janitors.
  2. Never provoke colleagues with personal questions (even if you are friends, it’s better to address personal matters outside of working hours).
  3. Distribute common tasks among all team members equally. This will help prevent the emergence of employees who do not contribute but only observe the work process.
  4. Learn to take responsibility for your mistakes and not shift the blame onto your colleagues (your supervisor will certainly appreciate this).
  5. Always maintain a calm, friendly atmosphere (no matter what happens).
  6. Avoid discussing your supervisor behind their back.


Violating the rules of subordination also has consequences. An employee who ignores the principles of business etiquette can no longer be considered reliable in the eyes of the management. A supervisor who disrespects their subordinates will never earn authority. Furthermore, not adhering to the rules of subordination can lead to a reprimand or even dismissal.


It’s worth remembering that a well-structured system of subordination can be an effective tool for establishing business relationships and can contribute to the optimization of the work process.

Form of Address

Regarding the question of how to address someone, whether informally or formally, it’s advisable to align with the corporate culture of the company. If the team is small and the relationships are friendly, extending beyond working hours, then using the informal ‘you’ is acceptable.

In a larger company where formal communication is the norm with everyone, it’s important not to disregard established conventions. Even if the supervisor and the subordinate are best friends, they can address each other informally in private, but publicly using informal language is not acceptable. This can tarnish the reputation and undermine the authority of the supervisor. In organizations with complex hierarchies, it’s important to maintain a formal distance and address everyone, without exception, using formal language.

Subordination Across Different Positions

Professional relationships can be either vertical or horizontal. Vertical relationships refer to those between a supervisor and a subordinate, while horizontal relationships are among colleagues.

Relationships Among Colleagues

When it comes to colleagues, it’s important to maintain a friendly and respectful attitude. Even if the company has an informal communication style, it’s still essential to keep a certain level of distance. For example, it’s not very appropriate to discuss personal life details or gossip about other colleagues at work.


If there is a toxic colleague in your team or someone you can’t seem to get along with, it’s not advisable to provoke conflicts. It’s better to minimize communication and discuss only work-related matters.

Employee – Supervisor Relationships

Employees should not hesitate to express their thoughts and suggestions to their supervisors. However, it’s important to do so politely and delicately. To ensure that the concept of subordination doesn’t turn into an authoritarian style on the part of the supervisor, they should also adhere to some key communication principles with subordinates.


In particular, it’s crucial to distinguish when to give orders and when to use a form of request. Orders should be given only in emergency situations; in other cases, it should be framed as a request. This demonstrates the supervisor’s friendliness and trustworthiness.


Excessive familiarity from the supervisor is not always welcomed, so it’s essential to be cautious not to harm the subordinate employee. However, it is absolutely necessary for a supervisor to praise their employees, especially when it’s deserved. After all, every employee should receive not only financial but also moral recognition for their work.


Furthermore, it is absolutely unacceptable for a supervisor to humiliate their employees. If there’s a need to address, emphasize, or remind about unfinished tasks, it’s better to do so in a serious tone so that employees remain attentive and do not allow delays in work matters. Another important rule for a supervisor is always to remember the names of all subordinate employees and familiarize themselves with their capabilities and productivity. This will make it easier to determine which tasks to assign to whom.

Supervisor – Supervisor Relationships

In professional relationships between supervisors, it is also essential to adhere to the principles of subordination. Specifically, reporting to higher-level management about the work completed or making suggestions should be clear, consistent, and comprehensible, and it should include supporting facts and figures. This allows the focus to be on the most critical aspects. When solving a particular problem, it’s advisable to offer several options. This demonstrates a high level of knowledge and competence in the matter that needs to be resolved.


If a peer or a higher-ranking supervisor requests you to undertake a specific task, it’s important to offer assistance but not promise more than you can deliver. First, you should ensure that you are genuinely capable of completing the task before agreeing.


As a result, no authoritative organization can exist without a clear adherence to the principles of subordination. Subordination is not only about obedience but also a way to assess efficiency, responsibility, and reliability, from regular employees to supervisors.

Tips for Managers

As a leader, you should be attuned to and understand the atmosphere within the company. You need to familiarize yourself with and comprehend some general guidelines to foster good working relationships with people.

  • Understanding People’s Strengths and Weaknesses

This can help you determine how to assign employees based on their interests, abilities, past performance, and career goals. It doesn’t mean you should only give tasks to those who are capable; everyone should be given the opportunity to prove themselves.

  • Treat Everyone Equally

No matter what happens, avoid any situation where you may be perceived as showing favoritism.

  • Show Care

There’s nothing wrong with asking people how you can help make their work easier.

  • Communicate Regularly

This includes candid and honest discussions with people about the effectiveness of their work. Regardless of the situation, be cautious with criticism. Stay positive and impartial. This means having one-on-one meetings with stakeholders if performance is lacking and publicly praising employees who deserve it.

  • Celebrate Small Wins with the Team

Take breaks when possible and practical. Even if the company has no budget, create an atmosphere where you acknowledge individual or team efforts towards achieving something. It doesn’t have to be an expensive celebration; just spend time with your team and allow yourself to celebrate achievements.


Subordination is unquestionably necessary in professional relationships. It allows for maintaining neutrality in most situations. However, as a rule, modern companies prefer not an entirely formal style of communication and leadership but a more relaxed one. In such an atmosphere of friendly relationships with colleagues and managers, it is more comfortable and enjoyable to work, which, in turn, positively impacts efficiency.

Your dream job is just a click away. Sign up for our resume writing service and get noticed by potential employers.

Scroll to Top