Line and Staff Organizations: Need, Importance, Merits and Limitation!

Based on primary business functions and specialized services departments are identified as line functions and staff functions. The primary functions in an organisation are (a) production/Service (b) Marketing and (c) Finance and these are categorized as line functions.

The specialized functions are H.R.M, Public Relation, Taxation, Costing, Industrial Engineering, R and D, Advertising, Stores, Transport, Marketing research and secretarial services. All those who do support functions to line functions are called as staff functions. This is explained in the Fig 1.4.


In any organisation if the line functions work efficiently and continuously the staff functionaries will have work and reason for existence. Fig. 1.4 displays co-existence of line and staff functions. The inter-dependence is shown symbolically.

Line and Staff Functions

Needs and Importance of Line and Staff Organisations:

The most important features are (i) it takes scalar chain Principle (Line of command) and (ii) Involves role for specialists a staff function. In the complex business environment it is essential to have services of various types of specialists. The staff functionaries play a supportive role to line functionaries.

In view of these reasons there is a need to develop an organisation structure which combines both line and staff functions. This will create practical and workable arrangement for organisational objectives.


“Line at staff organisation is one in which there is basic departmentation for primary business functions, operated on the concept of the scalar chain and there is a provision for specialized activities performed through staff officers, the latter acting generally in an advisory capacity.”

The primary functions are production, marketing and finance. Production initiates a business and marketing gives meaning in end. Finance plays a role of supporting both production and marketing. These are hence called as line functions. It is therefore natural that executives working in these functions carry more importance in an organisation.

Merits of the Line and Staff Organisation:

1. Due to line of command there is fixation of responsi­bilities.

2. Since specialisation is embedded with line functions the required expertise is made available.


3. There is scope of flexibility for staff functions to take more responsibility in the interest of organisation.

4. The line function is mainly responsible for output and to achieve objectives.

5. Organisational responsibility is distributed in such a way that nobody is overburdened, responsibility is shared.

6. Better utilisation and mobilisation of human resources is ensured.


1. There is scope of conflict between line and staff functionaries.


2. Decision making gets delayed or difficult if executives of staff function are more dominant than those of line functions.

3. In some organisations there is possibility of role confusions between line and staff departments.

Complaints and Conflicts Resolution:

Some of the common complaints against each others are:


1. Staff people are theoretical and do not understand the practical problems.

2. Ideas and schemes are by staff and line function people take the credit.

3. Staff people are burden to the company whereas line people work harder for their salary.

4. Authority is unnecessarily more with line functions than the staff functions.


5. Line functions do not appreciate ideas and advise of staff.

6. Line people try short cuts for quick results whereas staffs are more methodical.

In order to resolve such complaints committee should be formed to discuss and settle the matters amicably the job description and responsibilities to be clarified in writing to avoid any ambiguity. There should be counselling and persuasion to accept ideas as decisions in the interest of organisation as a whole.