What Is a Dotted Line Reporting Relationship?

Most organizations have flow charts showing the reporting relationships, consisting of solid and dotted lines; while a dotted line means that reports are still necessary, that manager is generally not closely involved in the evaluation of that professional. The reports are sometimes less crucial in the performance of that manager’s position.

A solid line on an organizational chart refers to a traditional management role. The manager along the solid line generally handles the setting of objectives and handles evaluations; when disputes arise, this is the manager that provides the answer.

A manager on a dotted line also has the right to expect part of the reporting individual’s attention and time, and he is often associated with some of the goal-setting. However, the accountability in this relationship is not as strong as that in a solid-line relationship.

In a solid-line situation, the manager generally is in the same geographical location as the responsible individual to make oversight easier to carry out. In a dotted-line situation, the manager is likely over an activity or project rather than the cultivation of the individual. When individuals have both dotted-line and solid-line bosses, they generally defer to the solid-line boss unless specifically instructed to do otherwise.