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Line-Staff Conflict

The conflict between line and staff may be attributed to: (a) personal backgrounds of the line and staff personnel, resulting in different attitudes to the organizational activities: and (b) tendency on the part of both line and staff to play disruptive political games because of consciousness as regards differences in their authority positions.

Generally, staff people are relatively young, better educated and more sophisticated in appearance and articulation of their viewpoints. They also suffer from a notion that their ideas if implemented will produce miraculous results. However, their problem is that they generally lack the command authority to translate their often grand ideas into action, and have therefore to pursue the exasperating course of persuasion and political game-playing.

As against this, line personnel view their staff counterparts as a source of irritation because the advice and recommendations emanating from the latter may involve change in the status quo, experimentation with altogether new ideas, and high expectations as regards what can be accomplished. Line personnel also regard the staff personnel as making unreasonable demands on their time, though without any useful results. In the process, while the line people accuse the staff people of being impractical and empty visionaries, the staff people return the compliment by saying that line people are unimaginative, obstinate and afraid to change the status- quo.

However, the line-staff conflict may be inevitable and even welcome in a limited way because it forces the staff people to be more practical and result-oriented, and the line people to be less dogmatic and resistant to change. But through effective coordination and formalized standardization, much of the ill effects of such conflict may be avoided.