Horizontal vs Vertical Relationships: Difference and Comparison

The interaction between two related or seemingly non-related objects, substances, or living things in the world can be studied and observed. If this observation leads to meaningful results, we say the two subjects are in a relationship. 

Now, the kind of relationship that determines their state of co-dependency can be of many types. Often, it can be of different types too. One of the most common classifications of these relationships is Horizontal and Vertical relationships.

It is important to note that these relationships are broad and general and do not come down to specialization.  We all know that things are on the same level when they are in the horizontal plane.

Hence, when discussing things to be in a horizontal relationship, we mean to say that the entities involved in this relationship are of the same status and share equal respect.


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Again, talking about things in a vertical plane means that some things lie higher than others, while some lie lower.

Key Takeaways

  1. In a horizontal relationship, two or more parties have equal power and responsibility.
  2. In a vertical relationship, one party has more power and control over the other party.
  3. Horizontal relationships are more collaborative, while vertical relationships are more hierarchical.

Horizontal vs. Vertical Relationships

Horizontal relationships are meant to keep all participants at the same level of respect, power, etc. As in a democratic state, the relationship is based on equality. In a vertical relationship, there is a difference between entities in terms of authority, etc. Dictatorship is an example.

Horizontal vs Vertical relationships

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonHorizontal RelationshipsVertical Relationships
DefinitionThe relationship where all entities have an equal stand.The relationship where some entities have greater authority, and some have less.
HighlightsBased on cooperation.Based on understanding.
BusinessCoworkers have a horizontal relationship.The boss and the coworkers have a vertical relationship.
GovernmentDemocratic governments and people have Horizontal Relationships.Dictatorships have a vertical relationship with the people.
Behavior This often leads to rivalries and competition.Leads to oppression.

What are Horizontal Relationships?

Horizontal relationships are those where the related entities have an established connection between them, have a relationship such that they are all on the same level of authority and power. To understand it, we need to look into the meaning of the words.

The word horizontal means the plane where, concerning the observer, all the objects appear on the same level. This means none of the objects has more value or authority over the other. 

Similarly, when two or more entities are in a horizontal relationship, they are operating or existing from the same level, and no specific entity has more say over the other. Usually, horizontal relationships occur where the entities have a lot of common characteristics.

For example, take the case of a husband and a wife. They are equally bound together in a marital bond. Their relationship is that of equality and hence is a horizontal relationship. 

However, it is important to note that this is not always the case, and many horizontal relationships exist where the entities do not have much in common.

In the case of democratic governments, the people and the government are equal in the eyes of the law and, thus, in a horizontal relationship. It is safe to say that in many cases, establishing this kind of relationship is not absolute and hence often depends on the eyes of the observer.

It might also depend on the situation too. For example, for a principal, both the teacher and the students should be treated the same way when there is a dispute in the school. However, in a classroom, a teacher has more authority over the students, which is not a horizontal relationship.

horizontal relationships

What are Vertical Relationships?

Vertical relationships are those where the entities involved have an established connection between them, and this relationship is as such; some entities have more power or more authority over a particular entity, while some have less power or authority over that same entity.

This can be easily understood by understanding the concept of a vertical plane. In a vertical plane, if we arrange several points, then the observer, who is standing on a plane that is perpendicular relative to this plane, will see that some points are at a higher position than the other points.

This is what constitutes a vertical relationship. An important thing to note is that vertical relationships need a lot of understanding. It also requires kindness and empathy.

This is because when a certain person is in a position of power, it is very easy for that person to misuse or exploit this power and thus bring about the anger and frustration of those below that person.

Such situations need to be handled delicately. Often vertical relationships result from unchecked exploitation of power, and hence they can cause the oppression of millions of people.

The most common example of such a scenario is a dictator’s relationship with the people of his/her country. Thus, vertical relationships are delicate and must be handled with much care.

vertical relationships

Main Differences Between Horizontal and Vertical Relationships

  1. The main difference between horizontal and vertical relationships is that in a horizontal relationship, the entities are in the same position of authority. In contrast, in a vertical relationship, someone has more authority, while another has less.
  2. Horizontal relationships flourish well under proper cooperation, while vertical ones flourish well under good understanding.
  3. In the business area, the coworkers share a horizontal relationship, while the boss has a vertical relationship with the coworkers.
  4. A democratic government has a horizontal relationship with its people, while a dictatorship has a vertical relationship with the people.
  5. The biggest problem arising out of horizontal relationships is rivalry, while oppression is a common problem in vertical relationships.
  1. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/01437739710182278/full/html
  2. https://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/39200
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