What Is the Difference Between Line and Staff Authority?

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Line managers direct the work of subordinates and make important decisions, while staff managers advise those with line authority. Moreover, line managers are directly accountable for sales and production target achievement, whereas staff managers extend support to help them achieve their goals.

The top management of organizations delegate the authority of human resources. Line authority entitles managers to control immediate subordinates, thereby creating a superior-subordinate relationship that is crucial to the success of the organization. For example, with line authority, a production supervisor has the right to direct employees to operate certain machines, and a finance vice president has the right to request for financial reports from a department head. On the other hand, staff authority creates an advisory relationship in which they advise and support line managers. It empowers staff personnel with the right to give useful advice to improve line operations. For example, a quality control manager helps a production manager by assessing the quality level of products and services offered by a certain manufacturing company, and employees in the human resource department assist other departments by training a qualified workforce. Both line and stuff functions have their respective hierarchies. While line managers have absolute control over their domain, they have to inform staff managers of any decision that impacts the macro-management of the organization.