Common criticisms of staff are that specialists operate in a vacuum, fail to appreciate the complexity of the line managerâ€™s job, or overlook important facts in making recommendation. To some extent, these criticisms are warranted, because specialists cannot be expected to know all the fine points of a managerâ€™s job. Specialists should take care that their recommendations deal only with matters within their competence, and operating managers should not lean too heavily on a recommendation if it deals only with part of a problem.
Much criticism arises because staff assistants are not kept informed on matters within their field. Even the best assistant cannot advise properly in such cases. If line managers fail to inform their staff of decisions affecting its work or if they do not pave the way — through announcements and requests for cooperation — for staff to obtain the requisite information on specific problems, the staff cannot function as intended. In relieving their superiors of the necessity for gathering and analyzing such information, staff assistants largely justify their existence.
Completed staff work implies presentation of a clear recommendation based upon full consideration of a problem , clearance with persons importantly affected, suggestions about avoiding any difficulties involved, and often preparation of the paperwork — letters, directives, job descriptive and specifications — so that a manager can accept or reject the proposal without further study, long conferences, or unnecessary work. Should a recommendation be accepted, thorough staff work provides line managers with the machinery to put it into- effect. People in staff positions who learns to do these things can find themselves highly valued and appreciated.
Making staff work as a way of organizational life
An understanding of staff authority lays the foundation for an organizational way of life. Wherever staff is used, its responsibility is to develop and maintains a climate of favorable personal relations. Essentially, the task of staff assistants is to make responsible line managers â€œlook goodâ€? and to help them do a better job. A staff assistant should not attempt to assume credit for an idea. Not only is this a sure way of alienating line teammates who do not like being shown up by a staff assistant, but operating managers who accept ideas actually bear responsibility for implementation of the proposals.
Even under the best of circumstances, it is difficult to coordination line and staff authority, for people must be persuaded to cooperate. Staff persons must gain and hold the confidence of their fellow workers. They must keep in close touch with operating departments, know their managers and staffs, and understand their problems. They must, through precept and example convince their line teammates that their prime interest is the welfare of operating managers, and they must downgrade their own contributions while embellishing those of the persons they assist. People in a staff capacity have succeeded in their role when line executives seek their advice and ask them to study their problems.