Introduction to Management
Chapter 10 :
Line and Staff Authority and Decentralization
Power:Bases of Power
Line and Staff Relationships
Concept of Line and Staff
Line and Staff Conflicts
Nature of Line and Staff Relationship
Avoidance of Line and Staff Conflict
Centralization vs Decentralization
Delegation of Authority
Balance-The Key to Decentralization
Factors Affecting Delegation of Authority
Although the term authority has various connotations, in the organizational
context, authority is defined as the power to make decisions which guide the
actions of others. Power, on the other hand, is the ability of individuals to
influence the beliefs and actions of others. Power can be legitimate, expert,
referent, reward, or coercive. Various authority relationships exist in an
organization, many of which are related to line and staff functions.
functions are those which are directly responsible for accomplishing the
objectives of the enterprise, while staff functions are advisory in nature.
The main staff functions are investigation, research and giving advice to
line managers on how to accomplish tasks. Functional authority involves
conferring rights upon individuals or departments to control the processes
and practices pertaining to personnel in other departments. Instead of making
recommendations to the line managers or superiors, functional authority
allows staff personnel to issue instructions to line managers directly.
Although line managers and staff personnel are expected to work together for
accomplishment of organizational goals, there are many factors which
contribute to the conflicts between line and staff personnel. The line
managers have clashes with the staff personnel as they feel that staff
personnel are not accountable for their actions. Moreover, line managers feel
that staff personnel invade their territory and dilute their powers.
staff personnel may not have experience of the operational activities, their
recommendations and ideas may lack applicability. Staff managers feel that
line managers do not make the right use of talents of the staff personnel and
are not open to new ideas. Further, since staff personnel lack authority,
they may not be able to implement their solutions for problems. The
difference in the nature of line and staff functions is also a prime reason
for conflicts between line and staff managers.
The line and staff conflicts
can be avoided by having clearly defined authority relationships between line
and staff functions and by ensuring proper use of staff talent. The staff
personnel should also be made accountable for the outcome of their actions
and present line managers the solutions for problems in as complete a form as
possible, leaving only its acceptance or rejection to the line manager.
Organizations differ from each other in the amount of authority given to the
lower-level employees regarding decision-making. Centralization is the
retention of decision-making authority with the top management, whereas
decentralization is granting of decision-making powers to the lower-level
employees. It is not possible for an organization to be either completely
centralized or completely decentralized. An organization can either follow a
centralized or decentralized approach depending upon the manner in which it
has grown over time, its size, the technical complexity of its tasks and the
geographical dispersion of its business operations.
Apart from these, other
factors like time frame of decisions, importance of a decision to the
organization, the planning and control procedures used and influence of
various environmental factors determine the level of decentralization in an
organization. Moreover, decentralization is facilitated if competent and
experienced managers are present in the organization and subordinates are
willing to take on additional responsibilities.
Depending on whether the organization follows a centralized or decentralized
approach, authority is either retained with the top management or is
delegated to the lower-level managers. Delegation of authority refers to a
manager granting the right to a subordinate to make decisions or use his
discretion in judging certain issues. The amount of authority delegated
depends on the delegator and the delegant, as well as organizational factors.
The delegation of authority may not be effective if a superior does not like
to delegate, if he is afraid of his subordinates' advancement, if he fears
that his shortcomings may be exposed or if he has a negative attitude towards
his subordinates. Also, if the delegant is afraid of criticism, lacks
information and resources, lacks self-confidence and if the rewards and
incentives are not attractive enough, the delegant may not be willing to take
on additional responsibility.
Organizational factors such as its
decentralization policy, control procedures, availability of managers and
management philosophy also affect the delegation of authority.
It is always important to strike a balance between centralized and
decentralized functions in an organization.
Major policy areas like finance,
new product programs, marketing strategies, etc. should be centralized,
whereas routine and monotonous tasks which do not need much guidance from
superiors, can be decentralized. Since the costs of decentralization are
high, the potential benefits must be high enough to justify the costs