6.25.2013

The hierarchy of personality

I posted this on Fakebook, but I think it's something that people can relate to in various businesses, based on some feedback I got from a couple of people who read the essay before it was officially posted. It didn't occur to me that a hierarchy of personality exists outside the media, but they said it does. One person even recommended the book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, which seems like an extreme version of what I'm talking about. Anyway, here's what I wrote:

I've noticed that there is a hierarchy of personality in radio. There is probably a hierarchy in TV too, but since I haven't worked in it, I can only assume it's similar. In the hierarchy of personality, someone emerges at the top of the structure, in a hierarchy that, of course, exists vertically. The determination of who is at the top is made either explicitly, because people have assigned importance to the person and have given that person freedom, or it's made through an understanding within the culture of the station.

When someone is at the top of the hierarchy, they can act how they want. They don't have to worry about reigning in their personality to get along with coworkers or appease their superiors. If the person is on-air talent, then their superiors are the management of the station. If the person is someone in station management, then their superiors are the upper management of the company. Some people assume the talent are at the top, but because corporations are running many radio stations, the management may be the most important entity. It just depends where the station is, who controls it, and how the hierarchy has developed.

When a person reaches the top of the hierarchy, the rules that those who are lower down the ladder have to follow are optional. Also, the privileged person can express how they feel: if they're angry about something, even if it's as minor as a color they don't like, they can express their anger, and the people around them won't think there's anything wrong with how their behaving. In fact, there are people who excuse such anger, saying it's just how they are, though they feel it's important to prevent such an expression of wrath on them. However, if someone lower in the hierarchy expresses anger, even if it's justified, people will not accept it and may revile the person. That's because the person doesn't have the cushion of protection that the privileged person has.

People surrounding the top person will acquiesce to the point that they will suppress their own feelings and be hesitant to give their opinions. They also won't express any dissatisfaction or frustration towards the top person, but will instead yell at, berate, or belittle those who are lower than they are in the hierarchy. They will put up with anything the top person does and stay silent when that person degrades them because they understand that the person holds the power to their livelihood and even their future. They know their place, and know that there are enough people below them who will, in turn, tolerate their eruptions or snide remarks.

The top person may decide to not arrive on time, attend meetings, do paperwork, do commercials or promotions (if they're talent), listen to other people, or consider other people's feelings. Their demands must be met and usually are because they exist in a space that is free for them but not for others. If they want to worry, they can. If they want to complain, they can. If they want to be happy, they can. If they demand a certain item, office, or workspace, they'll get it. However they want to be, they can be who they want because their personality can be fully expressed, and they know that no one is going to impede that.

What people at the top of the hierarchy of personality do more than anyone else, is treat all other people like "The Help." However, a person doesn't have to be at the top of the hierarchy to treat others like The Help. That is done at different levels, and it's prevalent as well. (Read about The Help here.)

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