MAX WEBER THEORY OF BUREAUCRACY
IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENT FOR “THEORIES OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION” (PUB803)
Prof (Rev). L.U Edigin (Esq)
FIRST SEMESTER 2017/2018 SECTION
The emergence of the management process and organization theory took place in two forms: Fayol’s identification of the principles and elements of management and Weber’s search for an ideal way of organizing. From different backgrounds and perspectives, both Fayol and Weber attempted to develop methods for managing large-scale organizations. Fayol stressed education for management rather than technical training, the importance of planning, organizing, command, coordination, and control. Weber sought to replace authority based on tradition and charisma with legal authority and to prescribe an impersonal and merit basis for selecting, hiring, and promoting employees. Both Weber and Fayol had history’s misfortune of being overshadowed by others and having to wait until after their deaths to receive proper credit for their roles in the ongoing evolution of management thought. Max Weber (1864-1920), is said to be the ‘father of bureaucratic management theory.’ Weber was a German sociologist and political economist that viewed bureaucracy in a positive light, believing it to be more rational and efficient than its historical predecessors.
THE CONCEPT OF BUREAUCRACY
Bureaucracy is a personnel and administrative structure of an organization. Business, labor, religious, educational, and governmental systems depend on a large workforce arranged in a hierarchy to carry out specialized tasks based on internal rules and procedures. The term is used mostly in referring to government administration, especially regarding officials in the federal government and civil service. It is often used derogatorily to suggest waste, inefficiency, and red tape. (Microsoft Encarta, 2009).
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 emphasized that bureaucratic type of power is the ideal one. (Smriti Chand, 2010)
Primarily prescriptive in nature, Weber’s writings strike an interesting contrast with
the practitioner-oriented recommendations offered by Taylor and Fayol. Weber’s
major contribution was an outline of the characteristics of what he termed “bureaucracy,” that is, government by bureaus (German Buro, 1979).
Max Weber Bureaucratic Theory
Weber’s theory of bureaucratic management has two essential elements. First, it entails structuring an organization into a hierarchy. Secondly, the organization and its members are governed by clearly defined rational-legal decision-making rules. Each element helps an organization to achieve its goals. Weber developed the principles of bureaucracy a formal system of organization and administration designed to ensure efficiency and effectiveness
MAX WEBER’S BUREAUCRATIC MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES
According to the bureaucratic theory of Max Weber, bureaucracy is the basis for the systematic formation of any organisation and is designed to ensure efficiency and economic effectiveness. It is an ideal model for management and its administration to bring an organisation’s power structure into focus. With these observations, he lays down the basic principles of bureaucracy and emphasises the division of labour, hierarchy, rules and impersonal relationship.
BELOW IS A MORE DETAILED EXPLANATION OF THE 6 BUREAUCRATIC MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES
TASK SPECIALISATION: Tasks are divided into simple, routine categories on the basis of competencies and functional specialisations. Every employee is responsible for what he/she does best and knows exactly what is expected of him/her. By dividing work on the basis of specialisation, the organisation directly benefits. Each department has specific powers. As a result, there is a delineation of tasks and managers can approach their employees more easily when they do not stick to their tasks. Every employee knows exactly what is expected of him/ her and what his/ her powers are within the organisation. Every employee has a specific place within the organisation and is expected to solely focus on his/ her area of expertise. Going beyond your responsibilities and taking on tasks of colleagues is not permitted within a bureaucracy.
HIERARCHICAL AUTHORITY: Managers are organised into hierarchical layers, where each layer of management is responsible for its staff and overall performance. In a bureaucracy, there are many hierarchical positions. This is essentially the trademark and foundation of a bureaucracy. Hierarchy is a system in which different positions are related in order of precedence and in which the highest rung on the ladder has the greatest power. The bottom layers are always subject to supervision and control of higher layers. This hierarchy reflects lines of communication and the degree of delegation and clearly lays out how powers and responsibilities are divided.
FORMAL SELECTION: All employees are selected on the basis of technical skills and competences, which have been acquired through training, education and experience. One of the basic principles is that employees are paid for their services and that level of their salary is dependent on their position. Their contract terms are determined by organisational rules and requirements and the employee has no ownership interest in the company.
RULES AND REQUIREMENTS: Formal rules and requirements are required to ensure uniformity, so that employees know exactly what is expected of them. In this sense, the rules and requirements can be considered predictable. All administrative processes are defined in the official rules. By enforcing strict rules, the organisation can more easily achieve uniformity and all employee efforts can be better coordinated. The rules and requirements are more or less stable and always formalised in so-called official reports. Should new rules and requirements be introduced, then senior management or directors are responsible for this.
IMPERSONAL: Regulations and clear requirements create distant and impersonal relationships between employees, with the additional advantage of preventing nepotism or involvement from outsiders or politics. These impersonal relationship are a prominent feature of bureaucracies. Interpersonal relationships are solely characterised by a system of public law and rules and requirements. Official views are free from any personal involvement, emotions and feelings. Decisions are solely made on the basis of rational factors, rather than personal factors.
CAREER ORIENTATION: Employees are selected on the basis of their expertise. This helps in the deployment of the right people in the right positions and thereby optimally utilising human capital. In a bureaucracy, it is possible to build a career on the basis of experience and expertise. As a result, it offers lifetime employment. The right division of labour also allows employees to specialise themselves further, so that they may become experts in their own field and significantly improve their performance.
MERITS OF BUREAUCRACY
Weber identified the essential characteristics of his “ideal” bureaucracy and believed that specific advantages would accrue to undertakings that embodied them. These characteristics and sample advantages include:
a.Division of Labor:Labour is divided so that authority and responsibility are clearly defined. The division of labour assists workers in becoming experts in their jobs. The performance of employees improves considerably. Advantage Efficiency will increase through specialization.
b.Managerial Hierarchy: Offices or positions are organized in a hierarchy of authority. Advantage — A clear chain of command will develop from the highest to the lowest level of an organization (Fayol’s scalar chain principle), defining different levels of authority, and thus individual discretion, as well as enabling better communication.
c.Formal Selection: All employees are selected on the basis of technical qualifications demonstrated by formal examination, education, or training. The selection process and promotion procedures are based on merit and expertise. It assists in putting right persons on right jobs. There is optimum utilization of human resources. Advantage— Employees will be hired and promoted based on merit and expertise, thus, benefiting both them and their employer.
d.Career Orientation. Although a measure of flexibility is attained by electing higher-level officials who presumably express the will of an electorate (for example, a body of citizens or a board of directors), employees are career professionals rather than “politicians.” They work for fixed salaries and pursue “careers” within their respective fields.
Advantage —The hiring of “career” professionals will ensure the performance
of assigned duties without regard for extraneous pressures, as well as ensure a continuity of operations across election cycles.
e.Formal Rules and Other Control:
All employees are subject to formal rules and other controls regarding the performance of their duties. 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.
— Efficiency will increase as formal rules and other controls relating to employee performance are enforced.
f.Impersonality:Rules and other controls are impersonal and uniformly applied in all cases. 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.
— When rules and other controls are applied impersonally and uniformly, involvement with personalities and personal preferences is avoided. Subordinates are thereby protected from arbitrary actions of their superior.
Demerits of Bureaucracy:
Although Weber considered bureaucracy to be the most efficient means of organizing, both his own experience and subsequent research have shown that it often results in certain disadvantages. These include:
a.Rules and other controls may take on significance of their own and, as consequence, become ends in themselves. Employees, for example, may accuse budget personnel of being more interested in applying rules and regulations than achieving a firm’s primary goals.
b.Extreme devotion to rules and other controls may lead to situations in which past decisions are blindly repeated without appreciation or concern for changed conditions. Such “bureaucratic rigidity” results in managers being compensated for doing what they are told and not for thinking. The result is “rule by rules” rather than common sense.
c.Whereas delegation of authority to lower levels may increase operational effectiveness, it may also encourage an emphasis on subunit rather than overall goals, thereby prompting subunit conflict and decreasing effectiveness. A typical example can be found in many universities where conflicts over which department is going to offer what courses often result in unnecessary duplication of subject offerings, as well as the unnecessary expenditure of resources.
d.Although rules and other controls are intended to counter worker apathy, they may actually contribute to it by defining unacceptable behavior and, thus, specifying a minimum level of acceptable performance. That is, it is possible, once rules have been defined, for employees to remain apathetic, for they now know just how little they can do and still remain secure. This is commonly known as “working to the rules,” because what is not covered by rules is by definition not an employee’s responsibility. Within an educational setting, statements such as “all students must attend at least 50 percent of the classes during a term to pass” or “the minimum requirement for graduation is a C average on all course work undertaken” are in frustrations of this phenomenon in that they clearly define minimum levels of acceptable behavior. Unfortunately, a typical administrative response in such circumstances is to enact additional bureaucratic rules (such as mandatory class attendance) and, in turn, further aggravate an already poor situation. Unless care is taken, however, such a situation may result in a “vicious circle of bureaucracy,” because once employees discover the appeasing effect of rules, they may push for even more controls to further restrict management’power. Therefore rules maybe functional in one sense, but in another (unintended) sense, they permit employee involvement without requiring emotional commitment.
Generally speaking, the term bureaucracy has a negative connotation and is often linked to government agencies and large organisations. Nevertheless, the great benefit of a bureacracy is that large organisations with many hierarchical layers can become structured and work effectively. It is precisely the established rules and procedures that allows for high efficiency and consistent execution of work by all employees.
All this makes it easier for management to maintain control and make adjustments when necessary. Bureaucracy is especially inevitable in organisations where legislation plays an important role in delivering a consistent output.
Daniel, A. & Arthur, G. (2009). The evolution of management thought, 6th ed. Printed in the United States of America
Max Weber, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. and trans. Hans H. Gerth and C. Wright MiHs (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946), pp. 196 — 294. (Originally published in 1922.)
Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization, trans. A. M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons, ed. Talcott Parsons (New York: Free Press, 1947), p. 337. (Originally published 1922.)
Vincent de Gournay in 1745. See Fred
Riggs, “Shifting Meanings of the Term ‘Bureaucracy,'” International Social Science Journal 31 (1979), pp. 563 — 584