The Relevance of Bureaucracy to Contemporary Organizations

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Bureaucracy is supposedly unsuitable to quickly changing and highly demanding features of contemporary organizations as this type of management is synonymous to red tape and it represents dozens of negative effects such as rigidity, alienation, and low commitment (Adler, 1999, pp.37). However, with core characteristics of the bureaucratic form (e.g. formalization, hierarchy and specialization) (Adler & Borys,  1996, p.1) as well as evidence of  ongoing existence of this management method, bureaucracy is proved to remain relevant in terms of following facets: it very fits organizations characterized with routine tasks; it comes up with exceptional requirements of some specific organizations; it is very well-suited to ease the tension of interest conflict between members of organization; and an appropriate style of bureaucracy will create and foster trust, commitment and motivation among employees. This paper argues that bureaucracy will keep pace with fast-moving contemporary organizations provided that organization management takes into account cultural features, quality of labor force, and the need of continuous improvement. Despite the fact that bureaucracy possesses some negative consequences such as rigidity, alienation, and low commitment (Adler, 1999, p.37) or bureaucracy is under criticism for dehumanizing people (Grey, 2005), there is evidence of bureaucracy existence in today world. For example, in America, the democratic government uses the rules of bureaucratic management; and bureaucratic principles are applied in administration of the customs and the foreign service alike (Mises, 1983, p.47). Normally, when bureaucracy is discussed, this management style is usually assimilated to red tape, over-controlling bosses, and apathetic employees (Adler, 1999, p.36); or it is regarded as incompatible to individual liberty, personal accountability and other virtues (Du Gay, 2000, p.67); or it is even regarded as one of the great evils (Adler, 1999 p.46). Nevertheless, this stereotype against bureaucracy is probably shaped by practical adoption of insufficiently bureaucratic form in nontraditional communist countries. According to Pearce (2000, p.151), bureaucracy in these countries is characterized by particularistic organizational practices that are designed to encourage excessively high level of formalization and hierarchy in favor of minority group interest (e.g. workplace authority, leaders). By contrast, universalistic bureaucracy is intended to enhance satisfaction of employees and effectiveness of organization as well (Pearce, 2000, p.150). This paper argues that the relevance of today’s bureaucracy is derived from universalistic practices that involve performance appraisal system, job description, financial accounting systems, and grievance procedures (Heneman at al.1989, cited in Pearce, 2000, p.159). In other words, the transparency and efficiency-oriented goal of this bureaucracy type may be used to explain why almost every organization at least capitalize on some extent of bureaucracy features (Jaffe, p.116). The current existence of bureaucracy may be primarily attributed to positive influences derived from bureaucracy rules that may be suitable at different extent to organizations regardless its sorts or level of development. Apparently, it is normally agreed that there is inevitable conflict in the interest between members of an organization. For example, the interest of workers and managers not always come hand in hand (Adler, 1999, p.45). According to Jaffe (p.97), this conflict in interest that inevitably cause organization tension, may be neutralized through bureaucratic rules (e.g. procedures, supervision or coordination) so as nonowners find their interest while creating interest for organizational owners. Additionally, (Adler, 1999, p.96) also points out that bureaucratic rules are more easily exercised and enforced if all members of organization have common interest. For example, both managers and...
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