What is Dotted Line Reporting?

What is Dotted Line Reporting? Here are Pros & Cons

There are two types of management in an organization. The linear management structure is where the employees report directly to the manager. In organizations that adopt dotted line management, employees report to the departmental manager and secondary manager/managers. 

In dotted line management, employees or secondary managers report to one or more than one dotted line manager. Dotted line reporting can prove to be more than helpful in many scenarios. 

For example, you have just just starting a business or established a start-up company and want to take care of every project. Now, you can ask the employees to directly report to their managers, who will report to their respective heads. Or else, you can ask them to report to another person who is close to you. 

By doing so, you will keep getting a second opinion of the proceedings, which will help you manage things fluently. The dotted line manager can be someone from another department as well. It assists in making the work processes of an organization cross-functional. Cross-functionality ensures a smoother transfer of knowledge and more intelligent utilization of available resources. 

Does Dotted Line Reporting create a burden on employees?

It means that the employees have to report to one more person apart from their direct manager. However, it does not create an additional burden on the employees. This is because their direct managers control their performance evaluation, promotions, and other things. 

Now let’s discuss some pros and cons of the dotted line management to understand it better:

Pros: Give operation a boost with dotted line reporting 

Facilitates better business alignment

When a dotted line manager, also called the secondary manager, business reports to multiple stakeholders, each stakeholder knows how the company progresses. As a result, it ensures better business alignment and brings better efficiency between processes. 

Better utilization of resources

If an employee or manager of another team has a few hours to spare every day, give him the position of a dotted line manager. It ensures better utilization of resources and provides more insights regarding deadlines and deliverables. 

Ideal for remote workers

Dotted line management can be necessary for organizations that manage their work through remote workers. It is because coordinating projects through multiple managers becomes easier for such organizations. 

For instance, one manager can explain the new projects, and the other can manage the progress and deadlines. 

Better delegation

In dotted line management, responsibilities are divided between the direct and secondary managers. Therefore, direct management can focus on the quality, efficiency, and other aspects of a project. 

Better collaboration

Organizations with strictly laid out teams often lack the cohesiveness or structure required to collaborate smoothly. Dotted line management brings in this element by creating virtual teams and managers who overlook each other’s tasks. 

Brings flexibility

If the direct manager is not available for some time, you can assign the dotted line manager to oversee his tasks. For instance, if the direct manager visits another country, the dotted line manager can handle his responsibilities till he returns. 

Cons: Challenges that can arise due to dotted line reporting 

Power shifts

The employees tend to give a higher priority to their direct managers in comparison to the dotted line managers. Sometimes, the priorities can shift depending upon the seniority and influence of the secondary managers. This might also create power shifts and conflicts that are not ideal for an organization. 

The negative impact of shared relationships

As the employees need to maintain relationships with direct and secondary managers, they may split their loyalties. If there is no communication between the two sets of managers, employees might have to face issues related to tasks and deadlines. 

No influence on direct incentives

In organizations that follow dotted line management, dotted line managers usually don’t have any say while incentivizing employees. Therefore, they must impart additional skills to the employees by providing exposure to other areas. At times, this might divert the employee’s attention from an ongoing project.

Communication gap

If the employees report different things to direct and secondary managers, it could create a communication gap. Also, if both managers expect various things at once, the employees might struggle to fulfill them. In such cases, empower the employees to raise concerns without any inhibitions. 


This reporting might not always be needed. For instance, don’t use dotted line management because someone in your organization has a few hours to spare. 

There must be a purpose and reason for implementing dotted line management in the organization. If this type of reporting creates conflicting goals, priorities, and deadline issues, stop using it. However, if you want to introduce cross-functional efficiency in your firm, it could be your best option.

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Springworks Team

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