Functional Authority, Staff Limitations, Conflicts between Line and Staff Managers, Ways of Reducing the Conflicts

Functional Authority, Staff Limitations, Conflicts between Line and Staff Managers, Ways of Reducing the Conflicts

We are going another step further in our examinations of the stable relationships that must exist in an organization. We have identified two major forms or relationship – the line relationship and the staff relationship.

We pointed out that line relationship should be looked upon as purely the flow or exercise of authority from the top to the bottom. Concerning the staff relationship, we said that their existence depended solely on the advice they render the line managers. Consequently, the staff relationship is purely in advisory.

We were able to identify the major advantages associated with each relationship.

We are going to look at functional authority, the limitations of staff the conflicts that do arise between the line managers and staff managers and suggestions on how the conflicts could be minimized. All these and more are necessary so that we be better placed to know how people interact in forma organizations. And when people come together and interact in an organization conflicts are bound to arise. But, we are limiting the conflict to the ones that exist between line and staff managers. This will give us done understanding concerning our behaviors if we are already working. If we are not working yet, the lesson is worth it too because one day we will find ourselves in work situation either in line department of staff department.


Functional Authority

We noted earlier at the preliminary stage of our discussion on organizing that activities necessary for the attainment of organizational objectives must be identify, group and assigned. And when arrangements has been made, it must be backed up with the commensurate authority, otherwise it because ridiculous. The assignment of responsibility with the corresponding authority is usually made to the manager and the subordinates that report to him.

Consequently, functional authority refers to the right which an individual or department has through the process of delegation to control specified processes, practices or other matters relating to activities in other departments. For example, in the production department, there are the production managers in addition to other personnel working under him.

There are issues relating to recruitment of personnel, salaries and wages administration, promotion, industrial relations among others which the production manager can other handle in relation to his subordinates.

He cannot handle them because he was trained for that kind of process and practices.

He is an engineer.

The only person competent to handle these matters is the personnel officer or manager, even though he is not in the production department. But by virtue of his training, education, experience and expertise he can handle all matters relating to personnel management in the production department and other departments. /due to his expertise, the right or authority to handle to personnel issues has been delegated to him and to nobody else.

He thus has the functional authority over personnel issues in all the departments in the organization.


Imperative of functional authority

a) It makes the manager to exercise his authority by employing his expertise on matters relating to his training.

b) It makes everyone on the organization to know who is to do what at every point in time.

c) It makes every member of the organization to respect one another since each on knows he cannot do ever thing. What cannot be done by another?

d) It affords the experts to concentrate on the areas they have a flair for.

Limitations of staff Relationships

The staff concept even though it has some usefulness in an organization has some limitations which can be seen from the following:

1.  Absence of responsibilities for results

The role of the staff manager is simply to advice. The outcome of such advice rests on the door step of the line manager, on the acceptance of the advice or plan. As a result, when a plan fails, the line manager will like to blame the staff manager for providing a poor plan. The staff manager can on his own side would return the blame on the line manager for not acting correctly accordingly to guidelines provided in the advice. He could go on to extend the argument that the plan was good but the incompetence f the line manager to execute the plan properly created the poor result.

2. Undermining line authority

Sometimes, it gets into the head of a staff manager to start undermining the authority of the line managers. Such situation arises if the staff officer is seen to be good in his job and as a results, a superior officer starts having greater confidence and reliance on him. By reason of the new importance being placed on him, he starts undermining the authority of line manager. Such situation is dangerous because it can result in anger, frustration and outright concerned and the staff officer. All these pollute the internal environment of theorganization which does enhance maximum productivity.

3. Feeling of sense of superiority

To counter the point rose in 3.2.2, the line manager since he is one of those formulating personnel policy administering salaries and wages among other personnel duties. But these are the functions of personnel management and not production.

Consequently, he is not qualified to do them. As the organization keeps developing, a stage will reach when it becomes necessary to remove these personnel duties from the production manager and assign them to a personnel manager who has been trained and possesses the necessary expertise to handle personnel issues. When the decision is taken and implemented the production manager may not like it. For one reason, while performing these personnel tasks as well as his normal production duties, he arrogates to himself more power, more prestige and even more status symbols. Some of these vanish overnight and to this extent brings conflict between him and the new personnel manager.

4. Due to changes in technology

Technology is simply the manner of doing something to get a desired output. As a result of changes in technology, the work of the line managers may become simplified. Some aspects of the job may even be taken away by computers and robots. As a result, those skills which have been developed by the line managers over many years are lost overnight to machines. And these machines are manned by staff specialists. Take the case of an accountant boasting his unique skills of having a flair for figures and can balance manually. With the introduction of computer, this can be done in split second. Even when the accountant is computer literate, his level of mastery of computer cannot be compared to a computer graduate who is a staff specialist. This is another source of conflict.

5. The work of the line manager being easily controlled

When the line manager was doing so many activities, it was difficult to monitor, check and control his activities. But when the activities have been reduced, the portion remaining in smaller and can be easily controlled by a superior officer. To this extent, the line manager may not like the development, it is not everybody that can easily subject him to control.

6. Due to changes

Many staff managers, once employed, are associated with bringing changes and innovations. They formulate plans and play key roles in executing these plans which are usually associated with changes. But human beings generally including line managers resist changes. As a result, the new development brings conflict between the two managers.

7. Differences in age

This is another possible source of conflict. The staff managers are usually younger in age than the line managers. It is not every one that can take directives from a younger person. Consequently, the age difference is a source of conflict.


Ways of Minimizing the Conflicts between the Line  Manager and Staff Managers.

1. Removing overbearing attitudes:

Over bearing attitudes on both sides should be removed or at least minimized. Both the line manager and the staff manager should cultivate positive attitude toward one another They need to realized the unique importance of each other and work toward mutual acceptance and tolerance.

2. Adopting patient attitude

In addition to point 3.4.1, both sides should also cultivate patience. Proposal from the staff manager should not be dismissed outright as not practicable because this hasty conclusion has arisen because of the conflict. The merit of such report should be carefully examined. Similarly, the staff manager should always sell his idea to the line manager. New changes take patience before they become fruitful. The power of the tongue through persuasion and reasoning should be used rather than arrogance.

3. Avoid playing the expert

An expert is only relevant to an organization when it is used to solve problems and contributing to the attainment of organizational objectives. Sheer pride and being resentful are not the ways of demonstrating expertise. Changes should be welcome so long as they are beneficial.

4. Avoid Speaking technical terms

Whenever both. Are discussing, as much as possible technical terms should be avoided. Speak the language of the hearer so as to avoid double interpretation thereby resulting in negative feedback.

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