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What is Authority Relationship?

Authority Relationship

Meaning of Authority Relationship

Authority relationship is relationship between a subordinate and his superior. The delegation of authority creates a chain of command or superior-subordinate relationships in an organization. Starting from the top with the chief executive we may visualise a series of lines, connecting him with is subordinates. The subordinate managers, in turn, are connected with their subordinates. This scalar chain of authority gives a shape of pyramid. Each individual in the organization is connected to this claim of command at some or the other point. This means that every individual directly or indirectly reports to the chief executive and is subject to his command. Different types of authority relationships exist and are utilized in order for people to work together effectively toward a given goal. The authority relationship is a cohesive force that integrates different parts of the enterprise into one coordinated whole.

Thus, authority relationships help in understanding the superior subordinate relationship between two individuals, span of control of a superior, the nature of authority and responsibility of a superior or subordinate, the lines of communication and the place of an individual in the organization structure.

Types of Authority Relationships

Generally, line and staff, two types of authority relationships exist in the organizations.

  1. Line Authority-


Line authority is a direct authority exercised by a superior over his subordinates and the flow of this authority is always straight downward. The characteristic of vertical or line organization growth is superior-subordinate relationship, i.e. a superior delegate’s authority to a subordinate and who, in turn, delegates authority to another subordinate and so no, forming a line from the very top to the very bottom level of the organizational structure. The line authority relationships establish a chain of command. The essence of line authority is the power of command of a superior over his subordinate. Each individual in the organization who is connected in this chain of command at one point or the other knows from whom he receives orders and to whom ne reports. The line authority consists of uninterrupted series of authority gradations and forms a hierarchical arrangement in an organization. The line authority provides a basic structure of organization through which flows all the command, orders instructions from top to the bottom. Line authority is also called the operative authority, scalar authority or hierarchical authority.


The line authority offers the following advantages;

    • Quick Decision and its communication- Because of direct command exercised over his subordinate, line managers can take quick decisions and communicate them to the subordinates without any delay or distortions.
    • Buck Passing is Eliminated- Because of direct accountability on the part of a subordinate to discharge his duty and show performance, buck passing of responsibility is almost criminated.
    • Easier to Understand- Because of direct superior and subordinate relationship, it is easier to understand the nature and extent of authority of an executive. His place in the organization structure and span of his control can also be easily understood.
    • Fosters unity of Command- The line authority fosters unity of command and facilitates direction, control and coordination.
    • Enhances Prestige of Middle Level Executives- Line authority enhances the image of middle level executives in the through their subordinates, because they get all orders and instructions through them and can send their grievances, information and suggestions only through their immediate line superior.

However the line type of organization structure has certain inherent disadvantages.

    • Heavy Burden on line Superiors- In the absence of staff assistance, the line executives tend to become overloaded with too many duties and responsibilities. Overburdened line managers hardly get time to devote more important management activities, such as planning research, development and overall control and coordination.
    • Lack of Specialization- Organization based purely on line authority lacks the services of staff specialists. In the absence of expert advice and assistance, some wrong decisions are likely to be taken.
    • Leads to autocratic Way of Organization- Organization based on line authority tends to be centralized and dictatorial. The scope of discussions, offering suggestions, expressing opinion and seeking advice, restricted. Superiors remain power-drunk and subordinates remain afraid, of. In the absence of any check on line managers, often decisions taken are not well through and rational.
  1. Staff Authority-


The staff authority exists for giving necessary advice to the line superiors in the discharge of their duties. The staff authority does not have power of command or force to compel operating people to accept their advice. The staff plays only a supporting role of rendering services and giving expert advice to the line executives to enable them to perform their duties more effectively. Staff work is essentially an intellectual process consisting of such activities like planning thinking, studying recommending persuading and suggesting. A staff man is an adviser and his sole authority is the authority of ideas. In fact, the term staff authority is a misnomer, for the person or department operating in a staff relationship has no authority to issue orders to other departments and no right to command accountability.


In most of the cases, the use of staff in organizational structures can be traced to the need for help in handling details, locating data required for decisions, and offering advice on specific managerial problems. The use of staff in government and military organizations is quite old. The employment of staff in business is also fairly old, but impetus in their use resulted from the recommendations of F.W. Taylor to establish managerial specialization on a functional basis. He thought of work as consisting of two parts: planning and performance. In due course this idea developed into planning for staff managers and performance for line managers. With the growth of complex business organizations and ever-increasing problems of specialization, governmental controls and advancing technology the need for specialized staff assistance was increasingly felt. The expansion of the organizations and the numerous duties assigned to the line executives overburdened them and the need to relieve them was felt to enable them to devote more time and energy for important managerial function. The specialised staff assistance in the fields of market research, legal advice, taxation, accounting etc.

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