Organisation theories play an important role in structuring organisations. This essay discusses the organisation theories and explores the representation of organisation life portrayed in the film, Repo Men. Repo Men is directed by Miguel Sapochnik. Many organisational structures can be seen in the film. The focus of this essay is on the bureaucracy approach. Bureaucratic organisations benefit from having hierarchical structure, written rules and been seen as a whole. On the other hand, the problems of practicing bureaucracy are communication breakdown, inflexibility and employees lose their faith in the organisation. In sum, this essay discusses both side of arguments regarding bureaucracy and discusses whether bureaucracy play a better role in an organisation.
The idea of bureaucracy was introduced by Max Weber. Bureaucracy is a management approach that emphasises on the rational virtues of a structure in an organisation. This approach relies on a lot of written rules, use hierarchical organisations, formal authority, centralised decision making, record keeping and division of labour (Hopfl, 2006). In Max Weber's view, organisations need to have these elements in order to become rational in decision making (Hatch, 1997).
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Firstly the story introduces the main character of the film, Remy, who works as a "repo" man (repossession) for a company named as "Union" which manufactures and sells artificial organs to people. These artificial organs are sold at a high price but Union claims that the organs are sold at a 'reasonable' price. Union persuades their customers to sign a repayment plan in order to increase the sales of organs. Failures to pay on time will result in their artificial organs being reclaimed by the "repo" men.
Based on what can be seen from the film there are a few arguments made in favour of the bureaucracy approach. Firstly it can be seen that Union is organised in a hierarchy structure. The company separates their employees into different layers. The director of Union is placed at the highest level, while managers from various departments come second followed by others employees. The manager, Frank, holds the highest position in his department, his employees such as Remy and Jake have to follow his decision. The characteristic of a hierarchy structured organisation has a centralised decision maker. Frank as a manager makes every decision and tells his employees what to do, when to do it and how. The benefit of having a centralised decision maker is it allows organisation to respond much quicker to a decision made by the decision maker (Hatch, 1997). This is solely because there is one path for employers and employees to communicate by passing the employer's decisions from top level of hierarchy to bottom while the employees report to their employers from bottom to top (Hatch, 1997). Another benefit of a hierarchy organised organisation is it reduces the coordination problem. The reason is that all employees are listening to one decision maker instead of two or more (Hatch, 1997). Moreover, the people who hold the highest position in an organisation can delegate authority to other and can give punishments or rewards. Employees from lower level have to follow orders from a higher hierarchy level without questioning. In the film, the "repo" men perform their task to reclaim the artificial heart from Remy even though they were once colleagues. This benefits the employer and decision maker in a hierarchy organisation because their statuses are not questionable by the employees (Hatch,1997).
In a bureaucratic organisation like Union, there is no doubt that every employee needs to follow the written rules. The reason for having rules in an organisation like Union is to ensure that every outcome made is the same. Every procedure, action and step is stated in the rules to guide the employees from steps to steps to achieve the standard outcomes. These practices of ensuring same outcome made are known as standardisation (Balle, 1999). The benefit of having a set of rules is to reduce individuality in an organisation. For instance, every "repo" man is required to follow the handouts given by their manager, Frank, and carry out their jobs without any doubt. Moreover, it also reduces unwanted and different outcomes produce by various employees. This is solely because different employees may produce different outcomes when doing the same thing (Hatch, 1997). After sometimes of considerations, Jake accepted to follow the rules by performing his task. His task is to reclaim the artificial heart from his best friend, Remy, even though he had at first refused to accept the handout. As a result, organisations can ensure that every outcome is unbiased and rational. An organisation may not able to perform consistently in the long run, if there are no rules to guide and monitor the employees (Britan & Cohen, 1980).
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Organisations need to ensure that employees see their company as a whole. A bureaucratic organisation should concern on the long run of the organisation regardless of what the employees thought. There should be no personal thought in a bureaucratic organisation. The organisations can benefit from this because their employees are working towards a same goal as the organisations. This means that every employee has to perform every job that the organisation demands for (Balle, 1999). In one scene when Remy was struggling whether he should quit his job for his family, the manager Frank told him to put the company's interest ahead of his. Also, Frank justified that "repo" men's work keeps the Union viable so that the company can continue to "give life". Before the introduction of bureaucracy, employees tend to put their personal interest ahead of the organisation's interest. The benefit of seeing organisation as a whole is it improves the performance of the organisation as they are more incentive to work harder for the organisation as compared to before. In the long run every employee is better off by receiving better pay and promotions which is based on their qualification (Britan & Cohen, 1980). In order to make sure that everyone in an organisation put the organisation's interest ahead of theirs, rewards and punishments system are carried out. With rewards and punishments, employees are motivated to work better (Britan &Cohen, 1980). In the film, after reclaiming 32 artificial organs from 32 people who failed to settle their payment, Remy and Jake received an increase in pay and commission. This motivates them to work better in the future for Union.
In contrast, bureaucracy does have the drawbacks. Firstly, a bureaucractic organisation like Union may face communication problems when they are organised in a hierarchy structure. Structuring the employees into different hierarchy levels, upper levels may not know what the lower levels are doing and vice versa. In addition, there will be no or less communication between each department (Balle, 1999). At the start of the movie, Jake continued to carry out his duty by reclaiming an artificial liver from an overdue client. Although the client told him that he has paid the money, Jake ignored him and said "that is not my department". This shows the seriousness of communication breakdown between departments. Also, the organisation becomes inflexible to changes due to the hierarchical structure. As mentioned earlier there are many levels in a hierarchy organisation, centralised decisions made from top level of the organisation takes times to pass down their decisions to the employees so as reporting back to the top (Hatch, 1997). This disallows the organisation to adapt quickly to changes. Furthermore, separation of employees into different levels raises a concern on equity and equality among employees (Bristan & Cohen, 1980). There is a big difference of benefits and treat received among the lower and upper levels (Bristan & Cohen, 1980).
Organisation may face certain consequences if every action made has to refer to the rules written in a bureaucratic organisation. The way the employees deal with daily routines may become less discrete because they have to follow what the rules said (Hatch, 1997). Thus, it will be inflexible for the employees to follow because the rules may not cover all possible situations (Bristan & Cohen, 1980). Moreover, organisations are inflexible to changes in the short run. Frequent changes of the environment will require regular changes of rules and these changes take a period of time before things are being done. The organisation may results in low adaptability to external and internal environments (Hatch, 1999). Furthermore, it is considered a waste of resources to have so many rules in an organisation. Having many rules in an organisation to guide the workers of what, when and how to do something will result in a poor performance from employees. Employees often seek for innovation and improvement in performing their routines but because of written rules they are restricted to do so. It becomes a waste of skills when employees cannot contribute their fully to the organisation (Hatch, 1997).
Seeing an organisation as a whole may result in a few problems. In a bureaucratic organisation, employees are told to put their organisation's interest ahead. However, the employees may lose their faiths in the organisation (Balle, 1999). After the incident of the faulty defibrillator, Remy requires an artificial heart in order to continue living. Instead of treating his colleague as a friend, the manager Frank wants him to transplant the artificial heart so that he can continue to perform his duties. This highlights how a bureaucratic organisation sees and treats their employees. As a result, Remy fails to pay the payment and goes against the Union. In addition, employees may lose their freedoms in an organisation. They need to put the organisation's interest ahead of theirs and perform the duties even though they do not want to. For instance, Remy accepted the offer offered by his manager Frank, when he realised that he needs to put the organisation's interest ahead. Thus, employees may become less spiritual to work for the organisation (Balle, 1999).
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After weighting both sides of the arguments, it appears that bureaucracy plays a very significant role in an organisation. By structuring the organisation into hierarchical organisation, employees are required to follow one decision maker. The benefit of following a decision maker is it reduces unnecessary confusion when there are two or more decision makers in an organisation. For instance, if there are another manager in the same department like Frank, then the "repo" men will confuse of whose decisions to follow. It will also strengthen the status of the highest level in an organisation as what they say will be enforceable and are subjected to all employees. Moreover, employees may probably be more consistent in performing their duties and achieve the outcomes consistently. This is because the people working at the higher level are normally educated and skilled, allowing them the ability to guide the people below them. This increases the productivity and performance of employees throughout the organisation. By ensuring that all employees can see the organisation as a whole, they are motivated to work collectively to achieve the same goal as the organisation. In contrast, a bureaucratic organisation may not perform well in the long run if the people in the highest level do not delegate some of their authorities to lower level employees. Hence, an improvement in the flow of decision making across the layer vertically and horizontally will be highly essential.
This essay has discussed the organisation theories and explored the representation of organisation life portrayed in the film. By referring to the film, both sides of the arguments can be found regarding bureaucracy approach. By practicing bureaucracy, organisations are structured in a hierarchy structure, seen as a whole and have written rules to guide the organisations. In contrast, bureaucratic organisations may face certain problems such as communication breakdown, inflexibility and employees lose faith in organisations .After weighing the arguments, it seems that the benefits of bureaucracy approach have outweighed the drawbacks. However, bureaucracy may not be the perfect organisation theory as it also has its problems. On the whole, it appears that a bureaucratic organisation like Union has reflected how well a bureaucracy approach is used to represent the organisation life.
Balle, M. (1999). Making bureaucracy work. MCB University Press, 13(3), 190-200.
Britan, G.M., & Cohen, R. (1980). Hierarchy and society. United States of America: Institute
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Hatch, M. J. (1997). Organisation theory. New York, United States: Oxford University Press
Hopfl, H. M. (2006). Post-bureaucracy and Weber's "modern" bureaucrat. Emrald Group
Publishing Limited, 19(1), 8-21. doi: 10.1108/09534810610643659