Characteristics of the bureaucracy

What is bureaucracy?

The bureaucracy is an organizational system whose function is to administer and manage certain issues that require a certain order. This system responds to a group of specific laws or rules of procedure.

As for its etymology, the word has its origin in the French language ( bureaucratie ) and means “office or desk” ( bureau) 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 defined it as a set of rules that organizes companies . This bureaucracy is, for Weber, a mode of administration with rational foundations where each individual has a specific function and each one collaborates so that the company’s goals can be achieved.

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 German economist and sociologist Max Weber.

Characteristics of the bureaucracy

  1. Regulations

The rules are reflected in clear regulations, which are prepared in writing, and they must be available to all employees. They are the cement of the organizational structure. Generally the regulation is presented from the first moment to each individual that begins to be part of the company or administration.

  1. Hierarchies

It is important to establish and make clear which hierarchy should be respected , that is, who is the manager, assistant manager, heads of each department and staff. In this way the entire company knows who to respond to or address.

  1. Formality of the 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.

  1. Division and work procedures

This division must be rational and systematic . The positions or functions should be defined according to the experience and studies achieved by each employee according to the demand of the position. For this reason, people always talk about positions and not people .

These guides and work routines must be written and be knowledgeable for each area. Thus procedures are established where everyone knows what to do and at what time. They can be written in manuals, guides, tables , etc.

  1. Work rules

Labor standards must be based on the impersonality of the positions . That is, each job must respond to a profile and each employee must conform to that profile to which they aspire or position to be filled.

In other words, it is not a matter of work norms where the person covers a position determined by proximity or sympathy towards others, but that this position must be framed in the knowledge acquired and the skills or strengths that said person possesses.

  1. Meritocracy

Meritocracy refers to technical skills and how to evaluate the performance of each person. Personnel should not be selected according to the personal preferences of 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 he belongs. Thus, many companies offer training in certain areas to later adjust the performance evaluation and raise the level of competitiveness.

  1. Administration

The administration should be seen as an agency 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.

  1. Professionalization of its members

At this point, each company will look for trained personnel in all areas. Such specialization must be previously acquired by employees. However, companies encourage and stimulate the constant specialization of their members, since this creates a differentiation and greater competitiveness , in relation to their direct and indirect competitors.

  1. Performance Forecast

This point refers to the need to anticipate the actions of human beings in order to avoid internal and external conflicts . At this point the measures taken by each company are important, but it is also of great importance to take into account the personality of each employee.

  1. Critics

There are currently many companies in the private and public sphere that continue to implement Weber’s bureaucracy theory. However, this theory has been criticized for the following failures:

  • The procedures are too organized and systematized which, often, become slow and lose effectiveness .
  • The impersonality of the operations suggests that each company does not deal with the needs or urgencies of people, but rather, cases, documents, files are being addressed, but the qualitative aspect is forgotten. That is, forget the true objective of any company: to satisfy a need or solve a problem towards the public or consumer.


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