The Characteristics of Weber's Bureaucracy

Topics: Bureaucracy, Max Weber, Organization Pages: 10 (2642 words) Published: April 27, 2011
1. Introduction

A bureaucracy is a large organization that is designed to achieve a common goal through a hierarchical organization. The classic perspective on bureaucracy was proposed by German sociologist, Max Weber at the beginning of 20th century. Weber developed a theory of authority structures and described organizational activity based on authority relations. He described an ideal type of organization that he called a "bureaucracy".

The characteristics of Weber's bureaucracy

* Division of labor - Each person's job is broken down into simple, routine and well defined tasks. * Well-defined authority hierarchy - A multilevel formal structure, with a hierarchy of positions or offices, ensures that each lower office is under the supervision and control of a higher one. * High formalization - Dependence on formal rules and procedures to ensure uniformity and to regulate the behavior of job holders. * Impersonal nature - Rules and controls are applied uniformly avoiding involvement with personalities and personal preferences of employees. * Employment decisions based on merit - Selection and promotion decisions are based on technical qualifications, competence and performance of the candidates. * Career tracks for employees - Managers are professional officials rather than owners of the units they manage. They work for fixed salaries and pursue their careers within organization. * Distinct separation of members' organizational and personal lives - The demands and interests of personal affairs are kept completely separate to prevent them form interfering with rational impersonal conduct of the organization's activities.

Bureaucracy, as described by Weber, emphasize rationality, predictability, impersonality, technical competence, and authoritarianism. The central theme in Weber's bureaucratic model is standardized structure and processes.

2. Advantages of Bureaucracy

Weber sincerely believed that his model could remove the ambiguity, inefficiencies, and patronage that characterized most organizations at that time. This model became the design prototype for most large organizations until less than a decade ago.

2.1 Learnable rules

Rules and regulations may be constraints on what you can and can not do, but they reduce ambiguity and increase uniformity of actions. Absence of policy, therefore, leaves managers open to reprimand for any decision made, however trivial. Similarly, if staff members do something wrong, they want to be assured that they are not unduly penalized.

2.2 Without regard to person

Weber's model seeks to purge the organization of favoritism. It sought to bring objectivity to employee selection by reducing nepotism and other forms of favoritism by decision makers and replacing it with job-competence criteria.

2.3 Giving employees' security in employment

Commitment to the organization, protection against arbitrary actions of senior management and inducement to master skills that may have limited marketability, learn those skills that may have little value outside the organization but that, nevertheless, are important for the organization's success. Japanese employees have traditionally been granted permanent employment, regardless of the business cycle. In response, Japanese firms have some of the most loyal and productive employees in the world.

2.4 Vertical hierarchy

There is clarity in lines of authority, rules, duties, specification of procedures, and so on. For managers, only when the structure and relationships are clear, authority is delegated.

3 Disadvantages of Bureaucracy

Some Criticisms are:

3.1 Goal displacement

Bureaucracy is attacked most frequently for encouraging goal displacement - the displacement of organizational goals by sub-unit or personal goals.

3.2 Inappropriate application of rules and regulations

It is the undesirable effect of members' applying formalized rules and procedures in inappropriate situations; i.e. responding to...

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