Weber’s Bureaucracy: Definition, Features, Benefits, Disadvantages and Problems
It was Max Webber who propounded the bureaucratic theory of organisation and management.
The term ‘bureaucracy’ has been widely used with invidious connotations directed at government and business. Bureaucracy is an administrative system designed to accomplish large-scale administrative tasks by systematically coordinating the work of many individuals. Weber has observed three types of power in organisations: traditional, charismatic and rational-legal or bureaucratic. He has emphasised that bureaucratic type of power is the ideal one.
Features (Characteristics) Of Weber’s Bureaucracy:
Weber has given a number of features of bureaucracy. Accordingly, following features suggest the characteristics of bureaucratic organisations.
1. Administrative Class:
Bureaucratic organisations generally have administrative class responsible for maintaining coordinative activities of the members.
Main features of his class are as follows:
i) People are paid and are whole time employees,
(ii) They receive salary and other perquisites normally based on their positions,
(iii) Their tenure in the organisation is determined by the rules and regulations of the organisation,
(iv) They do not have any proprietary interest in the organisation,
(v) They are selected for the purpose of employment based on their competence.
The basic feature of bureaucratic organisation is that there is hierarchy of positions in the organisation. Hierarchy is a system of ranking various positions in descending scale from top to bottom of the organisation. In bureaucratic organisation, offices also follow the principle of hierarchy that is each lower office is subject to control and supervision by higher office.
Thus, no office is left uncontrolled in the organisation. This is the fundamental concept of hierarchy in bureaucratic organisation. This hierarchy serves as lines of communication and delegation of authority. It implies that communication coming down or going up must pass through each position.
Similarly, a subordinate will get authority from his immediate superior. However, this hierarchy is net unitary but sub-pyramids of officials within the large organisation corresponding etc. functional divisions exist.
Thus, there are offices with the same amount of authority but with different kinds of functions operating in different areas of competence. For example, the Government organisations, we can observe separate offices looking after particular functions. This happens in business organisations too.
3. Division of Work:
Work of the organisation is divided on the basis of specialisation to take the advantages of division of labour. Each office in the bureaucratic organisation has specific sphere of competence.
(i) a sphere of obligations to perform functions which has been marked off as part of a systematic division of labour;
(ii) the provision of the incumbent with necessary authority to carry out these functions; and
(iii) the necessary means of compulsion are clearly defined and their use is subject to definite conditions.
Thus, division of labour try to ensure that each office has a clearly-defined area of competence within the organisation and each official knows the areas in which he operates and the areas in which he must abstain from action so that he does not overstep the boundary between his role and those of others. Further, division of labour also tries to ensure that no work is left uncovered.
4. Official Rules:
A basic and most emphasised feature of bureaucratic organisation is that administrative process is continuous and governed by official rules. Bureaucratic organisation is the antithesis of ad hoc, temporary, and temporary and unstable relations. A rational approach to organisation calls for a system of maintaining rules to ensure twin requirements of uniformity and coordination of efforts by individual members in the organisation.
These rules are more or less stable and more or less exhaustive. When there is no rule on any aspect of organisational operation, the matter is referred upward for decision which subsequently becomes precedent for future decision on the similar matter. Rules provide the benefits of stability, continuity, and predictability and each official knows precisely the outcome of his behaviour in a particular matter.
5. Impersonal Relationships:
A notable feature of bureaucracy is that relationships among individuals are governed through the system of official authority and rules. Official positions are free from personal involvement, emotions and sentiments. Thus, decisions are governed by rational factors rather than personal factors. This impersonality concept is used in dealing with organisational relations as well as relations between the organisation and outsiders.
6. Official Record:
Bureaucratic organisation is characterised by maintenance of proper official records. The decisions and activities of the organisation are formally recorded and preserved for future reference. This is made possible by extensive use of filling system in the organisation. An official record is almost regarded as encyclopedia of various activities performed by the people in the organisation.
Benefits of Bureaucracy:
The following are the advantages of Bureaucracy:
1. The rules and procedures are decided for every work it leads to, consistency in employee behaviour. Since employees are bound to follow the rules etc., the management process becomes easy.
2. The duties and responsibilities of each job are clearly defined there is no question of overlapping or conflicting job duties.
3. The selection process and promotion procedures are based on merit and expertise. It assists in putting right persons on right jobs. There is optimum utilisation of human resources.
4. The division of labour assists workers in becoming experts in their jobs. The performance of employees improves considerably.
5. The enterprise does not suffer when some persons leave it. If one person leaves then some other occupies that place and the work does not suffer.
Disadvantages of Bureaucracy:
The following are the disadvantages of Bureaucracy:
1. This system suffers from too much of red tape and paper work.
2. The employees do not develop belongingness to the organisation.
3. The excessive reliance on rules and regulations and adherence to these policies inhibit initiative and growth of the employees. They are treated like machines and not like individuals. There is neglect of human factor.
4. The employees become so used to the system, they resist to any change and introduction of new techniques of operations.
Weber’s model will be performed in those enterprises where change is not anticipated. Big business houses and government departments use this type of organisation. Weber is credited for attempting to develop Bureaucratic model for the first time.
Weber’s model has some drawbacks. It has rigidity, impersonality, excessive cost of control, excessive dependence on superiors, tendency to ignore organisational goals. Inspite of these limitations this model is very useful in large enterprises.
Problems in Bureaucracy:
Bureaucracy organisation has been considered once superior than ad hoc or temporary structure. It has been termed as rational and ideal leading to efficiency. The efficiency in bureaucratic organisation comes through rationality and predictability of behaviour because everyone knows the consequence of his action become actually the action is undertaken.
However, bureaucracy has been criticised because of its inefficiency and has been termed as a symbol of inefficiency. There are many dis-functional aspects of bureaucracy which is referred to as bureau pathology.
Looking into the needs of modern organisations, bureaucracy has many shortcomings and is, therefore, not suitable. The major problems of bureaucracy are because of the following factors: invalidity of bureaucracy assumptions, goal displacement united consequences, in human and closers-system perspective.
Invalidity of Bureaucratic Assumptions:
In fact, the source of bureau pathology lies in the invalidity of various assumptions of ideal bureaucracy. Many authors have questioned the validity of bureaucracy. In most of these cases, either the conditions are not found in practice, or even if found, may not result in efficiency.
Specially the following aspects of bureaucracy work against efficiency of the organisation, though they are supposed to contribute to efficiency:
1. Rules are normally provided for guidelines but often they become source of inefficiency because of too much emphasis on rules, their misuse, and people’s apathy from rules.
2. Rigid organisational hierarchy works against efficiency. It overemphasizes superior- subordinate relationships unnecessarily which is detrimental to congenial organisational climate.
3. In dealing with people, total impersonal approach cannot be adopted because people have feelings, emotions and sentiments which affect decision. Thus, people cannot work totally according to rules and prescriptions.
Article shared by Smriti Chand
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