Difference Between Horizontal and Vertical Relationships

Difference Between Horizontal and Vertical Relationships

A horizontal relationship is between two organizations not in the same industry. For example, a manufacturer making shoes may be in a horizontal relationship with an advertising agency. A vertical relationship is between two organizations that are in the same industry.

For example, a manufacturer of tennis racquets may be in a vertical relationship with an advertising agency. The difference between horizontal and vertical relationships is the degree of intimacy. In horizontal relationships, people are distant, while in vertical relationships, people are close.

In a horizontal relationship, the two people may have a standard value system or belief system but do not know each other personally. They don’t know what each other likes and dislikes. They might be friends on Facebook, but they would be confused if you told them to call each other on the phone because it’s just a virtual relationship.

On the other hand, there is an intimate bond between two individuals in a vertical relationship where they know everything about each other and vice versa. They feel comfortable calling or messaging each other because they trust that person with their life and vice versa.

Horizontal Vs. Vertical Relationships

A horizontal relationship occurs when two individuals are at the same level of the organization. For example, if one individual is a line manager and the other is an employee, they have a horizontal relationship.

A vertical relationship occurs when two individuals are not at the same level of the organization. For example, if one individual is an employee and another is their boss, they have a vertical relationship.

A horizontal relationship occurs when two parties are working together for the same organization but at different levels of succession. For example, a line manager is supervising an employee, and they both have access to information through one another’s respective positions in the organizational hierarchy. Since they both have access to information, honesty and autonomy are expected, leading to ethical dilemmas.

In a family environment, horizontal relationships occur when children depend on their parents for financial support but do not regularly spend time with their grandparents or want emotional closeness. In the case of vertical relationships, kids would prefer to spend time with their grandparents and want emotional support from them.

What is a Horizontal Relationship?

A horizontal relationship can be explained as a personal or business channel through which two individuals, who do not know each other, interact with one another. It is a type of communication that facilitates the flow of information between and among various entities throughout an organization.

It can provide an enhanced decision-making process and that all parties concerned learn from each other or, in the same way, influence an outcome. Horizontal relationships can be direct or indirect.

The most common type of horizontal relationship is the employee-administrator rivalry; however, there are instances when a personality clashes because of sexual attraction or personal hatred.

Network Structure (Interdependent), Leader Induced/Leader Behaviors and Power: Denotes an organization structure where many individuals depend on one another to achieve organizational goals. As leaders realize their employees’ importance in organization operations, they tend to act as leaders to encourage and inspire employees to perform better.

What is a Vertical Relationship?

A vertical relationship is a relationship where an individual has the role of elder, teacher, or parent while the follower is defined as a patron. It is also known to have a certain bond among two people that may include emotions and trust, especially when times of need arise.

Children might look up to their grandparents as caretakers who provide them with emotional support and guidance during troubled issues in life such as divorce or unhappy marriages. It is unknown what drives an employee to a specific manager because they have the same need.

A vertical relationship occurs when the feedback or reward arises from one person who, in turn, knows how best to help their subordinate achieve their goals and that these behaviors by way of mentoring or coaching are learned as aptitudes through training sessions.

A vertical relationship can also be developed if one expects what is represented. For example, a youth in school might take his top-ranking position as denoting the positive expectations to excel and still complete their projects, thus making them fit.

Difference Between Horizontal and Vertical Relationships

  • A Horizontal relationship is between a person and their subordinates. A Vertical relationship can be found in the family, particularly when discussing executives or managers employed by your company.
  • The Horizontal relationship is less personal, e.g., “I don’t like the team leader; I report to him. Vertical relationships are more personal, e.g., “I want to work for Joe; he’s professional and honest, and you cannot be in this business with someone like him who cares about employees!
  • A Horizontal relationship is often restricted between two people or less than 2. While a Vertical relationship can involve many others. Just look at the relationships of any family members of their children, siblings, cousins, etc
  • Horizontal relationships are generally more flexible and changeable, for example: “How am I doing?”; Vs. A vertical relationship is often formalized where one has a clear expectation of the expected outcomes.
  • Respect, common goals, and friendship or collaboration can be established in a Horizontal relationship. Where these elements are not all applications on their own for Vertical relationships, e.g., “I close the correct accounts every quarter”(a horizontal relation) vs.: “This project is part of my responsibilities” (vertical).


The main distinction between both types of relationships is: A Horizontal relationship involves an ongoing and give-and-take where the other person or people serve a purpose; while being related to one another. Whereas, Vertical ties involve hierarchy for leadership positions/seniority scale, which implies different requirements standards before becoming successful within these ranks. The nature determines that their task involved in either horizontal or vertical relationships has more than just their approval ratings.