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LINE AND STAFF RELATIONSHIPS

Organizational structure involves, in addition to task organizational boundary considerations, the designation of jobs within an organization and the relationships among those jobs. There are numerous ways to structure jobs within an organization, but two of the most basic forms include simple line structures and line-and-staff structures. In a line organization, top management has complete control, and the chain of command is clear and simple. Examples of line organizations are small businesses in which the top manager, often the owner, is positioned at the top of the organizational structure and has clear "lines" of distinction between him and his subordinates. The line-and-staff organization combines the line organization with staff departments that support and advise line departments. Most medium and large-sized firms exhibit line-and-staff organizational structures. The distinguishing characteristic between simple line organizations and line-and-staff organizations is the multiple layers of management within line-and-staff organizations. The following sections refer primarily to line-and-staff structures, although the advantages and disadvantages discussed apply to both types of organizational structures. Several advantages and disadvantages are present within a line-and-staff organization. An advantage of a line-and-staff organization is the availability of technical specialists. Staff experts in specific areas are incorporated into the formal chain of command. A disadvantage of a line-andstaff organization is conflict between line and staff personnel. LINE-AND-STAFF POSITIONS A wide variety of positions exist within a line-and-staff organization. Some positions are primary to the company's mission, whereas others are secondaryin the form of support and indirect contribution. Although positions within a line-and-staff organization can be differentiated in several ways, the simplest approach classifies them as being either line or staff. A line position is directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the organization, such as producing or selling a product or service. Line positions are occupied by line personnel and line managers. Line personnel carry out the primary activities of a business and are considered essential to the basic functioning of the organization. Line managers make the majority of the decisions and direct line personnel to achieve company goals. An example of a line manager is a marketing executive.

Figure 1 Line-and-Staff Organization Although a marketing executive does not actually produce the product or service, he or she directly contributes to the firm's overall objectives through market forecasting and generating product or service demand. Therefore, line positions, whether they are personnel or managers, engage in activities that are functionally and directly related to the principal workflow of an organization.

Staff positions serve the organization by indirectly supporting line functions. Staff positions consist of staff personnel and staff managers. Staff personnel use their technical expertise to assist line personnel and aid top management in various business activities. Staff managers provide support, advice, and knowledge to other individuals in the chain of command. Although staff managers are not part of the chain of command related to direct production of products or services, they do have authority over personnel. An example of a staff manager is a legal adviser. He or she does not actively engage in profit-making activities, but does provide legal support to those who do. Therefore, staff positions, whether personnel or managers, engage in activities that are supportive to line personnel. LINE-AND-STAFF AUTHORITY Authority within a line-and-staff organization can be differentiated. Three types of authority are present: line, staff, and functional. Line authority is the right to carry out assignments and exact performance from other individuals.

LINE AUTHORITY Line authority flows down the chain of command. For example, line authority gives a production supervisor the right to direct an employee to operate a particular machine, and it gives the vice president of finance the right to request a certain report from a department head. Therefore, line authority gives an individual a certain degree of power relating to the performance of an organizational task. Two important clarifications should be considered, however, when discussing line authority: (1) line authority does not ensure effective performance, and (2) line authority is not restricted to line personnel. The head of a staff department has line authority over his or her employees by virtue of authority relationships between the department head and his or her directly-reporting employees. STAFF AUTHORITY Staff authority is the right to advise or counsel those with line authority. For example, human resource department employees help other departments by selecting and developing a qualified workforce. A quality control manager aids a production manager by determining the acceptable quality level of products or services at a manufacturing company, initiating quality programs, and carrying out statistical analysis to ensure compliance with quality standards. Therefore, staff authority gives staff personnel the right to offer advice in an effort to improve line operations. FUNCTIONAL AUTHORITY Functional authority is referred to as limited line authority. It gives a staff person power over a particular function, such as safety or accounting. Usually, functional authority is given to specific staff personnel with expertise in a certain area. For example, members of an accounting department might have authority to request documents they need to prepare financial reports, or a human resource manager might have authority to ensure that all departments are complying with equal employment opportunity laws. Functional authority is a special type of authority for staff personnel, which must be designated by top management. LINE-AND-STAFF CONFLICT Due to different positions and types of authority within a line-and-staff organization, conflict between line and staff personnel is almost inevitable. Although minimal conflict due to differences in viewpoints is natural, conflict on the part of line and staff personnel can disrupt an entire organization. There are many reasons for conflict. Poor human relations, overlapping authority and responsibility, and misuse of staff personnel by top management are all primary reasons for feelings of resentment between line and staff personnel. This resentment can result in various departments viewing the organization from a narrow stance instead of looking at the organization as a whole. Fortunately, there are several ways to minimize conflict. One way is to integrate line and staff personnel into a work team. The success of the work team depends on how well each group can work together in efforts to increase productivity and performance. Another solution is to ensure

that the areas of responsibility and authority of both line and staff personnel are clearly defined. With clearly defined lines of authority and responsibility, each group may better understand their role in the organization. A third way to minimize conflict is to hold both line and staff personnel accountable for the results of their own activities. In other words, line personnel should not be entirely responsible for poor performance resulting from staff personnel advice. Line-and-staff organizations combine the direct flow of authority present within a line organization with staff departments that offer support and advice. A clear chain of command is a consistent characteristic among line-and-staff organizational structures. Problems of conflict may arise, but organizations that clearly delineate responsibility can help minimize such conflict.
Need, Question, Issue What is meant by lines of authority or responsibility? What is a staff relationship? How do these relationships affect working relationships? POLICY STATEMENT Lines of authority and responsibility (line relationships) are necessary so that all district staff clearly know to whom they are responsible and under whose direction or authority they work. These lines are not meant to restrict cooperative working relationships and/or communications between staff persons; they are intended to help each staff person know how to work more effectively with others if everyone's authority and responsibilities are clearly known. The Superintendent shall be directed to clearly establish a system of line and staff relationships that foster the development of the best possible school programs and services. Rules and Procedures A. The Superintendent will develop and implement a line and staff system as outlined under Rules and Procedures in Policy. B. District office administrators will be responsible for districtwide leadership, coordination and leadership activities. C. All district staff will be expected to refer matters requiring administrative action to the supervisor to whom they are responsible. D. All district staff is expected to keep their immediate supervisor informed of their activities. E. The principal of each school is the responsible administrator in the building. All personnel, certificated or non-certificated, who work part or full time in a building are responsible to the building principal. F. All staff members have the right to appeal decisions made by supervisory or administrative personnel to the next highest authority level. G. Staff relationships (cooperative working relationships without line authority) are to be encouraged.

LINE AND STAFF RELATIONSHIPS

Introduction
Line and staff are the most widely used concepts in organizing, and most of the structures have line-staff structures. Large and complex organizations operating in increasingly dynamic environment need a variety of special abilities, knowledge and skills for supporting the effective and efficient performance of their major functions of production and marketing. They, therefore, employ a variety of experts including industrial experts, quality control managers, industrial relation directors, legal advisors, cost accountants, market researchers, research and development scientists, and so forth. These specialists perform the staff functions of rendering expert advice and service to line managers in the performance of their functions.

Line and Staff Organisation Structure


Definition:
Line and staff organization is an organization in which line managers make decisions, and staff personnel provide advice and support.

Meaning:
Line and staff organization structure refers to a pattern in which staff specialists advice managers to perform their duties. When the work of an executive increases, its performance requires the services of specialists which he himself cannot provide because of his limited capabilities on these fronts. Such advice is provided to line managers by staff personnel who are generally specialists in their fields. The staff positions or departments are of purely advisory nature. They have the right to recommend but no right to enforce their preference on other departments. Sometimes it is difficult to determine which departments are line and staff. This problem can be solved by classifying the activities in two ways: i. the activities that are substantive or direct in its contribution to the organization are line ones, and ii. The activities which are objective or indirect in its contribution are staff ones. General Manager Personnel Manager Production Manager Marketing Manager
I ndustrial

Engineer

Sales Manager Market Research Training Manager


I ndustrial

Relations Manager

erits

Following are the merits of line-staff organizations: 1. Pl anned Specialization: the primary advantage of line-staff organizations is that it uses the expertise of specialists, i.e. it brings knowledge to bear upon marginal and operational problems. Line executives can, then, plan effectively and be responsible for proper execution while the staff specialists assist as and when needed. 2. Scientific Actions : the actions of a line manager can become more scientific by means of concentrated and skilful examination of business problems. Expert advice definitely helps line executives in arriving at a sound decision. 3. Qu ality Decisions: the quality of decisions in line and staff structure is high because the decisions come after careful consideration and thought. Each expert gives his advice in the area of his specialization which is reflected in the decisions. 4. Definiteness: in a line-staff organization, authority and responsibility are fixed. The unity of command principle is honored as each individual reports only to one superior, while specialized help is available as and when needed. I n addition, accountability is definite. Only line executives are accountable for the results of their divisions or departments. Undivided responsibility compels line executives to enforce discipline

strictly. Control and coordination in these organizations are effective. 5. Tr aining ground for developing people: as everyone is expected to concentrate on one area, ones training needs can be expressed easily. Line managers can improve their problem solving in this kind or organization structure.

Demerits
The line-staff suffer from some limitation which particularly becomes acute when it is not implemented properly. The basic problems are: 1. Lack of well-defined Authority: I t becomes difficult to differentiate clearly between line and staff because in actual practice, the authority is often diffused. Thus the managers may not be clear as to what is expected of them or what is the actual area of operation of the authority. Thus, confusion may be created in the organization. 2. L ine and Staff Conflicts: the main problem of line and staff structure is the conflicts between line and staff managers. Such conflicts may be because of various reasons and sometimes the organizational conflicts may be taken as personal conflicts resulting in interpersonal problems.

Suitability
This structure can be followed in large organizations where specialization of activities is required because it offers ample opportunity for specialization. When employed in the large organizations, its success depends upon the degree of harmony that is maintained among various departments and personnel, the clarity in line of authority, and interpersonal contact of executives particularly in line and staff positions. I n the natural course of growth, an expanding organization may adopt this structure to enhance the efficiency. This structure however, is not suitable for small organizations as it is quite costly for them. Moreover, they cannot take the full advantage of experts because of lack of adequate activities for them.

Line and Staff Relationships


Line and staff managers are in an international and interdependent relationship with one another.
I nteractions

are involved in their day-to-day relationships of staff advice, guidance and services

to the line. The line managers are dependent on staff specialists for achieving their goals. A production manager cannot function effectively, if, for example, the materials manager does not provide him supplies, tools, spare parts, raw materials etc., the maintenance manager does not provide him repairing and maintenance services, quality control managers does not cooperate with him by providing guidance about quality specifications, and so forth. Similarly, staff managers will find themselves superfluous if line people do not need or reject their advice and services. Another aspect of line-staff relationship is based on their authority relations. The line managers have command authority over their departments. Similarly, staff managers have command authority over their own departments, but they dont have authority over other managers, line or staff, outside their own departments. Their function is to give advice and render service to the line departments as well as to other staff departments. This point in line-staff relationship is often missed, and can be clarified with an example. A personnel manager extends expert advice not only to line departments, i.e., production, sales and finance, but to other staff departments also such as materials, quality control, maintenance, etc. Thus, we find that a staff manager is in a line relationship with other employees in his own particular department, and in staff relationship with managers and employees in all the other departments.
It

is discretionary on the part of a line manager to accept or reject the advice of a staff expert.

Acceptance of advice is always voluntary; it can never be forced on others. For eg., a doctor can advice a patient to take a particular medicine to cure his ailment, but he cant force it down his throat.

Role and Responsibility of Line and Staff M anagers


The line manage rs are responsible for: i) The formulation of objectives, plans and policies.

ii) Making decisions for the implementation of plans and policies and attainment of objectives. iii) Providing supervision and leadership, achieving coordination and exercising control. The staff managers have the responsibility to: i) Advice, help and guide the line managers in the performance of the above functions. ii) Provide specified administrative services. iii) I nterpret objective plans and policies. iv) Make the best tools available for the implementation of plans and policies. v) Help in the selection and training of employees. vi) Measure organizational effectiveness. vii) Report result to top management and suggest measures for improvement.

Line and Staff Conflict


Line and staff relationship is based on the assumption that both support each other and work harmoniously to achieve organizational objectives. However, there are frequent instances of conflict between line and staff in the organization. This generates lots of friction and loss of time and consequently loss of organizational effectiveness. Therefore, there is a need for analyzing the sources of line and staff conflict and then to take actions to overcome the problem of conflict. These relations are often characterized more by conflict than cooperation. Staff specialists complain that line managers are resistant to their ideas and the line managers complain that staff managers are sky-gazing specialists with no comprehension of practical situations. Such attitude prevails because due to a number of reasons which are categorized under 3 categories:

Viewpoint of Line M anagers


Line managers, who are responsible for the final results leading to the achievement of organizational objectives, feel that staff people are against them in the following ways: 1. Lack of Responsibility: I t is the perception of line managers that staff people do not carry any responsibility in the organization, but enjoy authority. This lack of responsibility makes them complacent and they do not care about the ultimate objective of the organization. 2. E ncroachment ofLine Authority: Line managers feel that staff people interfere in their authority. They give advice and recommendations on the matters which fall within their jurisdiction. And whenever there is any encroachment of interference on the legitimate right of any manager, the result is resentment, hostility, and open or hidden reluctance to accept advice and recommendation. 3. Dilution of Authority: There is a feeling that staff people dilute line authority. I n fact, staff authority emerges out of dilution of line authority. Line managers may fear that their responsibility will be reduced because of the addition of staff thereby making their job less challenging and varied. 4. T heoretical Bias: Often the advice and recommendation of staff people suffer from theoretical bias because of two reasons. F i r s t , they tend to think within the context of their own specialty and use criteria prescribed in their own discipline, which may make the advice one-sided and less practical. S e c o n d , often staff people are away from the actual operational scene for which they make recommendations, and therefore they may not be able to fully appreciate the actual dimension of the problem and their recommendation may not be practical.

Viewpoint of Staff M anagers


Like line managers, staff people have their own arguments and try to find faults with line managers which result in line-staff conflict. Their arguments and problems run on the following lines: 1. Lack of Pr oper use of Staff: staff people feel that line managers do not make proper use of staff people. Quite often staff people are ignored by the line managers and decisions are made without inputs form staff. Staff people are informed after the action has been taken. Many specialists feel that they should be consulted during the planning

stage of programme that involves their own area of specialty. This enables them to anticipate problems and to recommend precautionary measures, but line managers consult them only as a last resort. 2. Resistance of New Ideas: Line managers often resist new ideas because new ideas mean there is something wrong with their present way of working. Thus, new ideas are treated as fault-finding device in their operation and the resist new ideas. 3. L ack ofP r oper Authority: Staff people feel that line managers do not give enough authority to them. They contribute to the realization of organizational objectives without really enjoying any authority.

Nature of Line-staff Relationship


Following characteristics of line-staff relationship also create conflicts: 1.D i ff erent Backg rounds: Line and staff people often have different backgrounds and individual characteristics. Staff people, in contrast to line, are generally younger, better educated, more poised in social interaction, more articulate and individualistic. As a result, they often look down on the less educated line people, who must have worked their way up through the organization. These differences create an atmosphere of mistrust than of congenial and coordinative. 2. L ack of Demarcation betweenLine and Staff: though in theory, the line and staff authority is clear, often in practice, demarcation between line and staff is rarely clear. Many jobs in line and staff defy description and relationship between them and are not clarified. In such cases, there is a possibility for overlap and gap in authority and responsibility which can aggravate personal relationships. 3. L ack ofP r oper Understanding of Authority: Even if line and staff authority is made clear in the organization, people may fail to understand the exact nature of line and staff authority in practice which may be a source of conflict.

Resolving Line and Staff Conflict


Line-staff conflict resolution is needed so that it does not become so aggravated as to become dysfunctional. The following suggestions are made for this purpose: 1.Recognition of MutualD e p e n d e n c y : Conflicts will be minimized and inevitable conflicts resolved if both line and staff recognize that they are in a relationship of mutual dependency with one another. 2. Clear Understanding of Staff Role: Conflicts will be minimized if both line and staff develop a clear understanding of staff role. Even though staff is delegated certain amount of authority in specific areas, its primary role is to provide support to the line through advice, guidance and service. 3. De-emphasis on Staff Control Function: Sometimes staff units are charged with control function aimed at evaluating performance against standards and reporting deviations to higher management, and also ensuring that policies and procedures are uniformly followed by all the units of the organization. 4. P r oper Use of Staff Authority: Staff should use its functional, administrative and other kinds of authority in a proper manner that provides support to the line and strengthens it. 5. Constructive Staff Attitude and Skills: Constructive attitudes on the part of the staff and its human relations skills play an important role in shaping the line-staff relationships. The staff manager should have the ability and willingness to use influence to gain the line acceptance of his advice and guidance. 6. E mphasis on Staff Role asTeam Members: I t is essential that the manager should be a team worker. This is crucial because his function is to coordinate his advice with the needs of the line.
It

may be concluded that staff-line relationships, like any other relationships, can be build on

the foundation of mutual understanding, trust and confidence. Further, healthy relationships can are build over a period of time and need perseverance, patience and efforts. I t will also help to recognize that relationships are destroyed or undermined far more easily and speedily than build and strengthened.