160-Year Old Company Fires All Managers; Asks 100,000 Employees To Self-Manage

Sheetal Bhalerao

Sheetal Bhalerao

Apr 16, 2024

The struggling pharmaceutical giant Bayer CEO is doing away with middle managers and 99% of the company’s 1,362-page corporate handbook, in a bold move to claw back $2.15 billion.

160-Year Old Company Fires All Managers; Asks 100,000 Employees To Self-Manage

Bayer Getting Rid Of Bosses

The move will leave almost 100,000 employees to fend for themself.

When it comes to, it is a 160-year-old German company known for inventing aspirin.

But now, the company has been stuck in a rut due to its market cap having plunged to a two-decade low.

This event has been spurred by its so-far disastrous acquisition of Monsanto.

According to the Bayer CEO, Bill Anderson, flattening hierarchy and slashing corporate bureaucracy could be key to turning it around.

It appears that Anderson took the helm last June and learned that the company’s rules and procedures handbook was longer than War and Peace.

He listened to feedback from the firm’s workforce, and the same complaints surfaced repeatedly saying  

“Increasingly, we can’t get anything done,'” Anderson said in a media report.

Adding, “It’s just too hard to get ideas approved, or you have to consult with so many people to make anything happen.”

Anderson said, “We hire highly educated, trained people, and then we put them in these environments with rules and procedures and eight layers of hierarchy.Then we wonder why big companies are so lame most of the time.” 

As per this latest move, the company is going bossless, or as he calls it, moving to “dynamic shared ownership.”

Self Manage To Save On Money

According to Anderson this new way of working could be revolutionary.

Or it could be a fancy metaphor for a headcount reduction.

They expect that in the coming years, Bayer’s workforce will consist of constantly evolving “5,000 to 6,000 self-directed teams”.

Further these teams will work together on projects of their choosing for 90 days, before regrouping for their next project.

They have already started working this way as the employees of Bayer’s consumer health division have already gotten a taste of this new structure.

For starters, they’re being shown how to practically sign off on one another’s ideas without a manager in sight.

a corporate trainer ordered them “Stand up, share an idea” during a training session, as per the media report.

Here the question arises if this “going bossless” will be enough to fix ‘broken’ Bayer?

Whether or not Anderson’s plan gets the desired success, it will definitely buy him some time.

So far, it’s not clear exactly how many managers will be laid off or demoted as Bayer didn’t respond to requests for comment. 

Nonetheless almost 40% of management positions are headed for the chopping block in the U.S. pharmaceutical division alone.

Sheetal Bhalerao
Sheetal Bhalerao
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