The evolution of human resources since the early 1900s provides many challenges for human resources professionals. Traditionally referred to as the "personnel department," the focus of this department has shifted with expanding responsibilities due to changes in the organizations. What once were clearly defined duties of the human resources unit and the line manager are now blurred and sources of conflict.

Role of the Line Manager

Line managers are more production- and goal-oriented, as it is their role to make or save money for the company. Line managers are often referred to as supervisors, if at a more entry-level stage. Line managers are more hands-on oriented and responsible for getting the work done, maintaining employee performance and handling disciplinary issues.

The Role of the Human Resource Manager

The human resources manager has a legal and moral responsibility to both the employee and the company with a much broader scope. Unlike the line manager, he is not directly responsible for the employee's performance. His role is to see that any issues are dealt with fairly, legally and in accordance with company policy.


Line managers can see human resource managers as a hindrance and more like a "policy-manual-thumping" police department. Conversely, human resource managers can see line managers as "walking lawsuits" due to the lack of training and understanding of employment laws.


Human resources managers should spend time with the line manager in learning the business and how goals are achieved. Line managers should be trained by human resources managers in legal and employee relations issues.

Looking Forward

There seems to have been some positive meeting of the minds of human resources and line managers as work becomes more complex and employment laws more stringent. Human resources managers are also working toward better relationships with the line managers by increasing their understanding of the business.