Staff and line

Summary

Staff and line are names given to different types of functions in organizations. A "line function" is one that directly advances an organization in its core work. This always includes production and sales, and sometimes marketing.[1] A "staff function" supports the organization with specialized advisory and support functions. For example, human resources, accounting, public relations and the legal department are generally considered to be staff functions.[2] Both terms originated in the military.

Organizational lifecycleEdit

Organizations begin as line-only, with line managers having direct control over all activities, including administrative ones. Only later, as organizations grow in size, do they add staff positions.[3]

Relative authorityEdit

Line units tend to have more employees than staff units.[4]

Staff positions have four kinds of authority: "advise authority", offering advice to line managers who may ignore it; "compulsory advice" or "compulsory consultation" in which line managers must consider staff advice, but can choose not to heed it; "concurrent authority," in which a line manager must seek the agreement of a staffer, and "functional authority" in which the staff person has formal authority over his or her specialty and its employees.[5] Common types of functional authority for staff positions include authority over recruiting standards, reimbursement policies and quality standards.[6]

Staff workers derive influence from their expertise, from their control of potentially vital information, and from their closer access to upper management.[7][8]

ConflictsEdit

It is common for line and staff workers to come into conflict.[9] Staff specialists say line workers avoid and ignore them, while line workers say staff workers do not understand the organization's core work, distract them, and get in their way. Sociologist Melville Dalton attributed this to "the conspicuous ambition and individualistic behavior among staff managers," staff's anxiety to justify their existence, and the dependence of staff managers on line managers.[10] Other management theorists have observed that line managers sometimes resent staff advisors who are younger and better-educated than they are. Others attribute the problem to staff managers who do not realize that even though they have been delegated authority in particular areas, their primary role is to serve and support line managers. Management textbooks advise resolving line-staff conflict by explicitly recognizing the mutual dependency of the two, making it clear what the staff role is, de-emphasizing any controlling elements of the staff role, having staff deliberately set out to win the confidence and trust of line workers, and emphasizing the staff role as part of the team.[11]

Downsizing of staff functionEdit

In the 1980s many large companies downsized. Typically, staff jobs were disproportionately eliminated. (For example, IBM cut its staff positions from 7,000 to 3,000, and CBS cut hundreds of staff positions from its New York headquarters.)[12] Thereafter, more new MBA graduates began aspiring to line positions.[13]

Increasingly organizations, especially smaller ones, are moving away from line-staff structures to structures that are more hybrid or matrixed.[14]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ McDaniel, Lawrence J. Gitman, Carl (2009). The future of business: the essentials (4th, student ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cenage Learning. p. 182. ISBN 978-0324590753.
  2. ^ McConnell, Charles R. (2007). The effective health care supervisor (6th ed.). Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. p. 51. ISBN 978-0763739515.
  3. ^ McDaniel, Lawrence J. Gitman, Carl (2009). The future of business: the essentials (4th, student ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cenage Learning. p. 182. ISBN 978-0324590753.
  4. ^ Ornstein, Fred C. Lunenburg, Allan C. (2008). Educational administration: concepts and practices (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. pp. 40. ISBN 978-0495115854.
  5. ^ Agarwal, R.D. (1986). Organization and management (1. repr. ed.). New Delhi: McGraw-Hill. p. 150. ISBN 0074515063.
  6. ^ Handel, ed. Michael J. (2003). The sociology of organizations classic, contemporary, and critical readings (3. printing. ed.). London [u.a.]: Sage. pp. 149–152. ISBN 0761987665. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  7. ^ Agarwal, R.D. (1986). Organization and management (1. repr. ed.). New Delhi: McGraw-Hill. p. 150. ISBN 0074515063.
  8. ^ Handel, ed. Michael J. (2003). The sociology of organizations classic, contemporary, and critical readings (3. printing. ed.). London [u.a.]: Sage. pp. 149–152. ISBN 0761987665. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  9. ^ McConnell, Charles R. (2007). The effective health care supervisor (6th ed.). Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. p. 51. ISBN 978-0763739515.
  10. ^ Dalton, Melville (1950). "Conflicts between staff and line managerial officers". American Sociological Review. 15 (3): 342–351. doi:10.2307/2087175. JSTOR 2087175.
  11. ^ Handel, ed. Michael J. (2003). The sociology of organizations classic, contemporary, and critical readings (3. printing. ed.). London [u.a.]: Sage. pp. 149–152. ISBN 0761987665. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  12. ^ Griffin, Ricky W. (2010). Management (10th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. pp. 358–9. ISBN 978-1439080993.
  13. ^ Weihrich, Harold Koontz, Heinz (2007). Essentials of management: an international perspective (7th ed.). New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill. p. 182. ISBN 978-0070620308.
  14. ^ Griffin, Ricky W. (2010). Management (10th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. p. 358. ISBN 978-1439080993.