" Top, Middle, Bottom, and Customer are conditions all of us face in whatever position we occupy. In certain interactions, we are Top when we have designated responsibility (accountability) for some piece of the action whether it’s the whole organization, a division within it, a department, a project team, or a classroom. In other interactions, we are Bottom when we are experiencing problems with our condition and/or with the condition of the system, problems that we think higher ups ought to be taking care of but are not. We can be Bottom at any level of the organization. In other interactions, we are Middle, when we are experiencing conflicting demands, priorities, and pressures coming at us from two or more individuals or groups. And in still other interactions, we are Customer, when we are looking to some other person or group for a product or service we need in order to move our work ahead.
Even in the most complex, multilevel, multi-functional organizations, each of us is constantly moving in and out of Top/Middle/Bottom/Customer conditions. In each of these conditions there are unique opportunities for contributing to total system power; and in each there are pitfalls that readily lead us to forfeit those contributions." - Barry Oshry
If you are the Top of an organization, you live in constant fear of the reality that you don't really know what's going on- and you likely don't. The Bottom, who actually can see some opportunities and problems feel that no one values their opinions. The Middle, running interference between the Tops and Bottoms doesn't know who to believe. We've all been the Customer when the pitfalls emerge in this structure.