a/the pecking order
The hierarchy within a group or organization. There's definitely a pecking order in this company, and you're not going to do well if you don't know your place.
The hierarchy of authority in a group, as in On a space mission, the astronauts have a definite pecking order. This expression, invented in the 1920s by biologists who discovered that domestic poultry maintain such a hierarchy with one bird pecking another of lower status, was transferred to human behavior in the 1950s.
the pecking order
COMMON The pecking order in a group is the order of importance of the people or things within that group. Offices came in 29 sizes, according to your place in the company's pecking order. The British Medical Association issued a warning that doctors may be forced to draw up a pecking order of operations. Note: When groups of hens are kept together, a `pecking order' tends to form. This means that a stronger bird can peck a weaker bird without being pecked in return.
pecking ordera hierarchy of status observed among a group of people or animals.
The expression originally referred literally to chickens and other birds, the more dominant of which in a group get to feed before the others.