Here is the basic difference between line, staff and functional authority with example:
Line authority: The authority of those managers directly responsible throughout the organization’s chain of command for achieving organizational goals.
Example: General Manager
Staff Authority: The power to conduct investigations and advice line managers, but not to implement these recommendations.
Example: Internal/External Auditor
Functional Authority: The authority of members of staff departments to control the activities of other departments as they relate to specific staff responsibilities.
Example: Quality Manager
Line authority - in which individuals in management positions have the formal power to direct and control immediate subordinates.
Staff authority - granted to staff specialists in their areas of expertise. Narrower than line authority and includes the right to advise, recommend, and counsel in the staff specialists' area of expertise. It is a communication relationship with management. It has an influence that derives indirectly from line authority at a higher level.
And take a human resource manager as an instance
A HR manager has line authority over the staff of the HR department and staff authority to support , assist , and advise mangers of other Departments in matters related to HR management
Functional organisation have specialist who are the heads of each department whereas line has a simple chain of authority i.e takes the form of a pyramid the upper level then middle management and lower level
For Line organization
Line managers are generalists.
The line of authority is vertical as it follows the principle of scalar chain
There is strict discipline
It is not based upon planned specialization
There is unity of command
It is suitable for small scale operations
It is quite economical
For Line and staff organization
1. There are experts known as staff to advise and assist the line officials
2. Line authority and staff people with advisory authority
3. Loose discipline
4. It is based upon planned specialization
5. Unity of command observed to a great extent
6. Suitable for medium scale operations
For Functional organization
Functional managers are specialists in their respective areas
The line of authority is functional or diagonal. The functional manager has authority over the functions wherever it is performed.
Based on high degree of specialization
Unity of command is not followed as each sub-ordinate gets instructions from his line boss and the functional bosses.
It is suitable for large scale operations where expert knowledge in certain fields is a must
Line authority is with the front line workers. E.g the authority with a foreman. It is usually very limited. Staff authority is with the supervisors in an organization. Whereas functional authority is with the functional heads like HR Director, Marketing Director etc. It has a broader scope as compared to the other two types of authority. The functional authority holders are involved in strategy and decision making. These strategies and decisions flow throw the hierarchical chain to the Staff authority and through them to the line authority.
Difference between Line, Staff and Functional Authority