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Max Weber developed the idea of bureaucracy at the beginning of the twentieth century. He used the term of bureaucracy to describe a particular type of organisation. He wanted to know how work was divided and how it was controlled. Contrary to other managers like Fayol, Weber was a sociologist and a philosopher who studied society. According to Weber, bureaucracy "was the most efficient form of social organisation precisely because it was so coldly logical and did not allow personal relation and feelings in the way of achieving goals". Organisational behaviour, Andrzej Huczynski & David Buchanan. Max Weber wanted to promote a uniformity to provide fair and equal treatment to all workers. He designed bureaucracy in which to provide a stable and a certain organisation. His model has been used over the last 100 years and has a significant impact on the present day especially in large multinational companies. Bureaucracy has increased since the growth of the European Union in 2004. The characteristics of weberian bureaucracy are based on job specialisation, authority hierarchy, employment and career, recording, rules and procedures and impersonality. In addition, Weber distinguishes three different types of authority: traditional, charismatic and bureaucratic. Despite bureaucracy being one of the most reliable structures used in organisation it had some flaws point. If bureaucracy has been deficiency is some way it is due to the fact that it has been misunderstood and badly applied by managers. I will be discussing in this essay how bureaucracy tend to be functional and dysfunctional using examples to backup my arguments.
The dysfunctional of bureaucracy is that management has to create an environment where employees can have the opportunity to mature as individuals. This means that the organisation will have to move out from bureaucracy and develop into another type of organisation design. Applying such kind of organisation will be too expensive to maintain, and the firm will be unable to respond to the demand and to achieve the target, which will lead to the collapse of the organisation. Bureaucracy tends to develop internal weakness, which lead to an increase of inefficiency. This will prevent the organisation to look at their legal and moral right. Workers complain about the increasing demand of bureaucracy and rights of personnel work. The "job specialisation", is the work of the individual and departments that are divided into well defined tasks. It will be an over specialisation skills for the individual, and prevent the workers from caring about problems or issues that are not part of their domain. Therefore workers will no longer be flexible in working in another department due to there over specialized skills. Such kind of dysfunction can lead to frustration. In Highland Park where Ford was based, the workers stayed in the same place and did the same tasks repeatedly on multiple vehicles. Therefore if there was any deficiency in the machines, only the specialized person can handle the matter, which may cause weakness.
Whereas for the organisation, job specialisation can have an important impact for the firm. Because the individual will have to be over-specialised and have more skills and knowledge in one particular domain, they won't be flexible and it will prevent the company to be more productive. The company will have difficulties in coping with the demand for example, if a manager wants to promote a worker, he will not be able to adapt himself to his new environment. He will have to learn more skills to be able to cope. Weber distinguishes three kind of authority; the one that apply to hierarchy is legal rational authority. It is "based upon the belief in the legality of rules and on the right of those who occupy posts by virtue of those rules to issue commands" Authority, Richard Sennett. Weber preferred to use the term of hierarchy has a substitute of the word power. The employees can see themselves not contributing to decisions, as their managers will be promoted and have a higher position and thus have more "power". The worker knows clearly to whom they are responsible. Having a high control over others can lead to errors that are being hidden by the company. Within bureaucracy, if a manager has a high power over the employee, he can "do what ever he wants". In other words, he can easily give order to his employee, and make the employee work for him. Because he will have a high power, the employee will believe what the manager say, and therefore they will think that what he is doing is right. The employee will do what the manager says not because he is right, but because he has a certain power, and a high position. So by experience, the employee will follow him.
Employment and career can restrict the employee to developed their knowledge and skills as an individual. This can lead to frustration and to psychological impact for the employee. For the organisation, employees are promoted to a higher job where they cannot achieve the skills they are being asked. For example, the employees have to be preferment in their job and not to be late; they have to respect the "Just on time" for example. For the organisation it can have a consequence on the minimum level of acceptable performance. For example in company that deals with chemicals and other toxique product can be very dangerous. In Japan in 1999, they was a very sever accident in Tokaimura. When the accident happened three technicians had a lack of knowledge in the making of the fuel and didn't had the experience to do it correctly and safely. This could have been vital not only for the employee but the neighbourhoods.
Rules and regulation controls the action of the organisation's members. The employee especially the specialist who feels they are being neglected will seek to impose their rules. This kind of rebellion is often used to draw attention to their existence and their competence. In Crozier study of French bureaucracy show that: "to circumscribe others with rules whilst leaving yourself free is a recognized route to political ascendancy in organisations" Understanding Organization, Charles B. HANDY
Impersonality is also part of bureaucracy; it involves the problem with the size. For example hospital and government are very large organisations, and therefore they are too important to be human. If the company were smaller, the quality of human relation would improve the life of each employee in the organisation. Therefore employee feels they are being neglected and as a consequence employee can react negatively in their work, they are expected to do well.
Recording can been see like an end for the employee, because he will feel persecuted and he might feel that all his work is being classified and register in the company records.
After looking at the dysfunctional part of bureaucracy, ill be discussing in my second how bureaucracy tend to be functional and how Elliot Jacques is supporting bureaucracy.
Elliot Jacques is one of the most advocates of bureaucracy. As far as he is concerned, employees should be liable to their managers for the work they do. He agrees that the worker should be given more time to relax, to improve their moral and to be able to increase the productivity. According to Elliot Jacques bureaucracy is the most reliable structure an organisation can apply especially for a large organisation and it is fundamental in maintaining a modern society. Contrary to the dysfunctional part of job specialisation, it helps the organisation to be more productive and efficient. The workers will be indeed doing the same tasks every time. In Ford company the workers were so efficient that they were doing mass production, and were more competitive with their competitors and they were producing affordable vehicles.
The authority hierarchy determine the limit between the employee and his supervisor. For Jacques "the key to making bureaucracy efficient was ensuring a match between a manager's responsibility and the time span for their position" Organisational behaviour, Andrzej Huczynski & David Buchanan. Fourth Edition. In Ford organisation, power and control were very important. It helped the company to be preferment and to be able to be competitive. Recording will allow creating an organisation, which is not based on the individual belief. This will keep a record of the company, for many years without including individual's memory. This will help the employee, to be protected with his records. Rules and procedure are important in an organisation it defines what is expected from the workers. Many managers in large companies allow more rights to the workers and provide facilities to what is legally required. Rules and control regulates what the individuals do and it establishes conformity between them. For the employee, it can be frustrating, but it prevents them to reduce ambiguity and offer them a high organisational identification. For the employers it gives them a certain "power" when it comes to higher a new employee. They can establish the rule on what basics this person will be higher, or what qualification the employer will be looking at. Impersonality reduces the favouritism between the workers. This prevents the employee to be to involved with the other employee and to mix between private and professional life. Thus, even if they are being neglected, the employee can work hard no matter how they are oppressed, they self discipline, which gives them a sense of moral. They will self motivate, and will perform well in their task. For example in big companies like IBM, the most important is the satisfaction of the client, and developing their technology to a high standard. The employee, will want to be preferment to be able to have a better position, and maybe to have power, over the others.
Bureaucracy has been applied in most organisation for more than 100 year, it has been showed that is it the most efficient organisation which emphasize clarity, efficient and reliability. It worked by creating fixed tasks and division, imposing rules and regulation, and having a hierarchy. Most organisations especially the large multinational works within a bureaucracy structure. Although it has some dysfunctional aspects, like employment and career, that can be crucial for the organisation and can be a weaknesses for the internal of an organisation, and external if the company is very competitive on the market. Career and employment are very important fact for a company and it shouldn't be use in a flexible way, in other word, company should be careful in choosing their new employee for a job, to avoid causing any accidents, like for the Tokaimura accident in Japan. Whereas for other company, bureaucracy has been a success, like Ford. Until now it is one f the biggest company in the united state of America, and it has proved to be efficient and competitive on the market.
- Organisational behaviour, Andrzej Huczynski & David Buchanan. Fourth Edition
- Authority, Richard Sennett
- Understanding Organization, Charles B. HANDY