The Theory And Logic Of Bureaucracy

Max Weber first produced the bureaucratic model of organizational theory in the early 19th century. Bureaucracy itself bear a negative connotation, people equate it with unexplained delay and general frustration, red-tapism, pettiness and silly rules that seem to create barriers preventing the working of common sense.

The word bureaucracy today often carries a negative evertone suggesting the heavy control and excessive procedure imposed by often minor public officials. This connotation developed because the ideas behind bureaucracies emphasized rules, procedures and a hierarchical system of checking the actions of subordinates.

In other words, the logic of bureaucratic model of organizational theory is seen in the following principles:

1. Hierarchical Structure Principle

This means that authority in an organization is distributed in the structure of a pyramid, each officer is responsible for his other subordinate actions and decisions. Every top officer in an organization identifies his span of control and plays the supervisory role. In a bureaucratic organization with hierarchical structure the relations of leadership by the top administrators and followership of those at the lower level position becomes evident.

The leadership of top officer implies actions and interaction with person and things with a view to attaining organizational objectives sometimes planned in advance sometime at the heart of the moment.

It presupposes critical thinking and awareness of the issues of the moment, it also implies the understanding of the frame work of the mind of those in the lower position in a given situation. Consequently, the top officers leads when they show those in the lower position a way out of a problem, or crises and those at the lower position participate actively with a feeling of job satisfaction.

Bureaucratic organization are social system in which people occupy various positions in a hierarchical order and each position is expected to be occupied by specific type of individual or class of individuals who should behave in particular ways in order to achieve organizational objectives.

Thus the role of top officers and those in the lower position in a bureaucratic organization cannot really be appreciated except in relation to one another and it is this quality of complementarity which fuses two or more roles into a coherent interactive unit and which makes it possible for us to conceive an organization as having a characteristic structure.

2. Division Of Labour

Greater efficiency is achieved when operations are divided into special areas and individuals are assigned task according to their training, skills and experiences. This is because the duties or jobs to perform in an organization are too complex for everyone to learn at equal competence.

Therefore, bureaucratic organizations have clear division of labour based on functional specialization with each job well defined, understood and routinized.

3. Control By Rules

Official decision and actions are directed in an organization by certified rules and regulations, thereby making sure that there is uniformity and stability. The rules and regulations are not made for any particular individual rather for the post and offices that are created in that organization.

Weber strongly believes that bureaucracies should be governed by rules and regulations, which must rigidly be obeyed. He states that rigid bureaucratic rules should foster a social distance between the labour and management and make workers dependent on management.

4. Impersonal Relationship

Control over people and activities in an organization can be more efficiently established if purely emotional and irrational elements are eliminated. The members of an organization are subject to strict and systematic discipline in conduct and control of their office. Workers conduct their duties with a sense of personal detachment in order to minimize favouritism in the application of rules and policies, in the enforcement of discipline and in the rewarding of employee so as to assure equality of treatment and facilitate rationality on the part of administration and staff.

Weber sees nothing wrong with an impersonal mechanical and officious relationship between the manager and the staff because he considered this distance a safe measure to avoid personal feelings and emotion, which could dilute the rational and objective judgement of the manager.

5. Career Orientation

Employment and growth in an organization are always based on expertise and not on blood relationship or friendship. Promotion is given according to seniority or merit or according to both. Salaries are tied to ranks in the hierarchy or paper qualification. The individual is always free to resign and the retirement provisions exist, if you are qualified, you are employed.

In order words, employment is based on technical qualifications. Rigid and equitable selection criteria are to be used to hire candidates for vacant jobs and promotions should be based on seniority, achievement or both.

6. Written Records/Documentation

This involves recording all administrative acts, decisions rules, instructions and plans.

Records in bureaucratic organization must be protected from fire, hazards and deterioration. Their importance is so great that law for their preservation prescribes often a long period of time. Records tell the history of an organization by serving as historical sources of useful information to the administrators’ successors and to outside authorities. Moreover, they offer a basic for objective evaluation and appraisal by auditors and other inspectors.

However, its criticism lies in boredom, lack of morals, communication blocks, rigidity and goal displacement, conflict between achievement and seniority cost of controls, anxiety, limitation of categorization.

Many other writers (Blau 1956, Bennis 1973, Kramer 1977 and Peretomode 1991) have noted a series of pitfalls of bureaucratic model. It has been pointed out that the model views the worker as totally rational individual who would gladly conform to organizational desires in the name of efficiency. It does not take into account the “informal” organization, which could be a useful vehicle for improving efficiency. This is why Blau (1956) argued that “to administer a social (formal) organization according to purely technical criteria of rationality and formality is irrational because that ignores the non-rational aspect of social conduct (P. 58).

Bureaucracy does not adequately allow for personal growth and development of mature personality. It leads to administrative mentality -> a function of what Schaar (1970, p. 70) refers to as bureaucratic epistemology in which the only legitimate instrument of knowledge is objective, technically trained intellect, and the only acceptable mode of discourse is the cognitive mode.

Bureaucracy encourages over-conformity and induces “group think”. It is a system of control and authority that are hopelessly outdated. It does not possess adequate means for resolving differences and conflicts between ranks and most particularly, between functional groups.

Furthermore, communication overload is often a problem. Communication and innovative idea are often thwarted or distorted due to hierarchical dimensions. The result is that full human resources of bureaucracy are not being utilized due to mistrust and fear of reprisals. Besides, it cannot quickly assimilate the influx of new technology or scientists entering the organization. In addition, it modifies the very personality of bureaucrats so that they becomes and reflect the full, gray conditioned “organization man”.

There is the inability of bureaucracy to respond to change because of ritualistic attachment to routine procedures. There is difficulty in developing congruence between the need of the individual in the organization and the organization itself.

Moreover, it leads to goal displacement that is when the adherence to rules becomes an end itself. It is also possible that the goals and activities of bureaucracy may become subverted by the goals and interest of outside groups.

In summary, bureaucracy cannot account for important human elements, rigidity, impersonality, high cost of control, anxiety due to pressure of conformity to rules and procedures (creating insecurity, frustration, and dependence on the superior), tendency to forget ultimate goals of the organization, self-perpetuation and empire building are all glaring disadvantages of bureaucracy. Above all, bureaucracy cannot offer satisfaction for high level wants of employees.

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