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"Chain of command" describes any supervisory or organizational structure that incorporates levels of management and supervision. In such scenarios, employees report to a supervisor, supervisors report to upper management and management reports to corporate headquarters. The chain also works in the other direction. For example, upper management is in charge of supervisors, who direct employees. No matter how small or large your company is, a chain of command can keep your business running smoothly.
Most chains of command include assembling employees into groups with names that specify individual categories of tasks, with a direct supervisor assigned to monitor the performance for each group. For instance, in the restaurant industry, groups include servers, bartenders, kitchen help and maintenance workers. Each group must report to an assigned supervisor of its specific department -- such as a bar manager, head chef, banquet captain or chief custodian -- who reports to the general manager.
Separate departments with their own supervisors allow closer attention to detail and productivity and personal attention to employee performance. A manager who must monitor several aspects of the business may become overwhelmed or devote limited attention to individual areas. Assigning department managers to supervise employees and report to general managers or CEOs can save time and money and increase productivity, service quality and profit.
When direct supervisors are in place to manage specific staff groupings, this provides a communication link between employees and higher management that can accurately convey information from -- or about -- staff members to higher authorities. Also, having a direct department supervisor can often alleviate higher management from dealing with departmental issues by providing on-site resolutions to employee problems and concerns.
Though you may always try to get along with your manager, and should address a direct supervisor with any work-related concerns, sometimes employees find that it's the supervisor who is causing the problem. With a chain of command management system, you often can combat a difficult, unreasonable, unfair or incompetent supervisor by going over his head. It is generally recommended to first confront your department head, but when such efforts are futile you can usually direct your concerns to your supervisor's direct authority figure.