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Line and Staff Authority

Line and Staff Authority

LINE AUTHORITY: It is that authority which a superior exercises over his subordinates to accomplish primary objectives of the organization. The superior issues orders and instructions to his sub ordinates to complete the tasks.

This authority is delegated to those positions or elements of the organization which have direct responsibility for accomplishing the primary enterprise objectives.

The flow of authority is always in the downward direction from the superior to the subordinate and such relationship is called LINE RELATIONSHIP that exists in all departments of an organization.

line and staff authority

Line and Staff Authority Relationship


1. As a Chain of Command: Line officials are in the chain of command from the highest position to the lowest position in the organization. Each successive manager exercises command over his subordinates.

2. As a career of accountability: Each executive in the line is accountable for the proper performance of the tasks assigned to him and every subordinate is answerable to his superior.

3. As a Channel of communication: Since the line relationship involves issue of instructions from the authorities and reporting from subordinates, it facilitates and serves as an effective channel of communication.

Line relationship helps the organization to work properly by

  • Providing the decisions required for functioning
  • Furnishing reference points for the approval of proposals
  • Serving as a means of control by setting the limits of authority
  • Establishing authentic communication channels to make leadership process effective

line and staff authority

STAFF AUTHORITY: Literally staff implies a stick carried in the hand for support. In the context of management, it implies to those elements that help the line authorities to function effectively in accomplishing the primary objectives of the enterprise.

Staff provides

  • advice
  • assistance and
  • information to line managers and they are distinguished into three categories namely, personal, specialized and general staff.

They reduce the burden of line authorities and they too have the right to command and extract work from their subordinates.

According to Henri Fayol “staff is an adjunct, reinforcement and a sort of extension of line manager’s personality.”

Six rules to simplify work in an organization


As always, functional and decisional conflicts arise between line and staff members. The causes may be attributed to the following reasons.

1. Line managers grudge against the staff personnel:

a) The staff authorities try to encroach upon the line managers and tell them how to do their work

b) Lack of well balanced advice from the staff managers

c) Staff managers are not directly accountable and sport a jealous attitude towards line authorities

d) Staff managers fail to see the big picture objectively and their interests are confined to specified situations

e) Staff often tend to impose their superiority on line managers

2. Staff personnel complaints against the line managers

a) Line managers don’t want to listen to the suggestions of the staff and make it a point to resist new ideas.

b) Lack of authority on the part of staff managers to implement their innovative ideas and hence the dependence on line authorities.

c) Line managers do not utilize the services of staff personnel properly and effectively.

3. The workers’ attitude

a) The authority relationships between line and staff specialists are not clearly defined most of the time

b) The basic difference in attitude and perception of the line and staff managers create difficulties for the work force in carrying out orders and instructions.