Explore the key characteristics of bureaucracy, including features such as hierarchy, specialization, formal rules and procedures, impersonality, and more. Gain a deeper understanding of this common organizational structure and its strengths and weaknesses.
The bureaucracy is an organization system whose function is to administer and manage certain matters that require particular order. This system responds to a group of laws or specific rules of procedure. As for its etymology, the word has its origin in the French language (bureaucracy) and means “office or desk” (office) and “power, government or domain” (cratie). The bureaucracy can be public or private, depending on whether this term is applied in the public or private sphere.
It was the German economist Max Weber who studied the term and definition as a set of rules that organizes companies. This bureaucracy is, for Weber, a management mode with rational foundations, where each individual has a specific function and each one collaborates so that the ends of the company can be realized.
From the current concept of what bureaucracy means, it can be divided into 3 major meanings:
- Bureaucracy in a derogatory sense. It is used in informal language.
- Bureaucracy as social classes that belong to the State.
- Bureaucracy as a form of organization, or “bureaucratic model of organization” (definition of Max Weber).
Next, we will use the term bureaucracy according to the German economist and sociologist Max Weber.
Characteristics Of Bureaucracy
Bureaucracy is a type of organizational structure that is characterized by a set of regulations and formal procedures that govern the behavior of its members. These regulations are designed to ensure that the organization operates efficiently and effectively, and they are enforced by a hierarchical chain of command.
One of the key characteristics of bureaucracy is the use of formal rules and regulations to govern behavior. These rules are typically written down and enforced uniformly across the organization. They are designed to promote consistency and predictability in the way that work is done, and to ensure that everyone follows the same procedures.
Another important characteristic of bureaucracy is hierarchy. Bureaucracies are typically structured as pyramids, with a small number of individuals at the top who are responsible for making decisions, and a larger number of people at the bottom who carry out those decisions. This hierarchical structure allows for clear lines of authority and accountability, and ensures that decisions are made by those who are most qualified to make them.
Specialization is another key characteristic of bureaucracy. In a bureaucratic organization, each member has a specific role or job function that they are responsible for. This allows individuals to become experts in their particular area of work, and helps to ensure that tasks are performed efficiently and effectively.
Impersonality is also a hallmark of bureaucracy. In a bureaucratic organization, decisions are made based on rules and regulations rather than on personal relationships or preferences. This helps to ensure that decisions are fair and consistent, and that everyone is treated equally.
Overall, while bureaucracy has its strengths in promoting efficiency and consistency, it can also be criticized for being rigid and inflexible, and for stifling innovation and creativity. As such, it is important for organizations to carefully consider whether a bureaucratic structure is appropriate for their particular needs and goals.
It is important to establish and make clear what is the hierarchy that must be respected, ie who is the manager, assistant manager, heads of each department and staff. In this way, the whole company knows who it should respond to or address.
3. Formality of communication
The communication channels used in the hierarchical pyramid (bosses and employees of different ranks) must be effective and guarantee the reception of the information to be transmitted. Some communication channels are: email address, telephone, newsletters, internal chat for employees of a company, etc.
4. Division and work procedures
This division must be rational and systematic. The positions or functions must be defined according to the experience and studies reached by each employee according to the demand of the position. For this reason it is always talking about positions and not people.
These guides and work routines must be written and be of knowledge for each area. This establishes procedures where everyone knows what to do and when. They can be written in manuals, guides, charts, etc.
5. Labor standards
Labor standards must be based on the impersonality of the positions. That is, each job must respond to a profile and each employee must adjust to that profile to which he aspires or since it should be covered.
In other words, it is not about work norms where the person covers a position determined by closeness or sympathy towards others, but this position must be framed in the knowledge acquired and the skills or strengths that person possesses.
Meritocracy refers to technical competencies and how to evaluate the performance of each person. The personnel should not be selected according to the personal preferences of the recruiters.
Also in terms of skills, each organization can promote the development of each employee’s skills in relation to the demands of the position to which this belongs. Thus, many companies offer training in certain areas to then adjust the performance evaluation and raise the level of competitiveness.
The administration should be seen as an organization outside the rest but articulating and coordinating the entire company. Thus, the administration can be subdivided into different areas, sectors, etc. Not enough each sector works for the optimization of human and material resources.
8. Professionalization of its members
At this point, each company will look for trained personnel in all areas. This specialization must be previously acquired by employees. However, the companies encourage and stimulate mainly the constant specialization of its members since this generates a differentiation and greater competitiveness, in relation to its direct and indirect competitors.
9. Performance forecast
This point refers to the need to foresee the actions of human beings in order to avoid internal and external conflicts. At this point it is important the measures that each company takes, but it is also of great importance to take into account the personality of each of the employees.
Currently there are many companies in the private and public sector that continue to implement Weber’s bureaucratic theory. However, this theory has been criticized the following failures:
The procedures are too organized and systematized that, often, they become slow and lose effectiveness. The impersonality of the operations makes us suppose that each company does not deal with the needs or urgencies of people, but rather, it is dealing with cases, documents, archives, but forgets the qualitative aspect. That is, forget the true objective of any company: satisfy a need or solve a problem to the public or consumer.