In of labour and hiring/promoting based on technical

In
1966, Bennis pronounced the imminent death of the bureaucracy. Since then, critics
have continued to suggest that bureaucracy is inherently unethical, outdated
and irrelevant (DuGay 2000, p. 1). However, the fact that it has facilitated
economic growth and has been debated for over a century (Evans and Rauch 1999) suggests
otherwise. This essay critically analyses bureaucracy; considering how and why
it has been so central to organizational analysis for such a long time. Firstly,
it considers Weber’s argument for the rationality of bureaucracy. Secondly, it offers
a critical analysis of bureaucracy and its dysfunctions. Then finally, it considers
whether post-bureaucracy is a viable, more effective way or organizing.

Bureaucracy
is a model of organization that is founded on rules, a hierarchy of authority,
impersonality, the division of labour and hiring/promoting based on technical capability
(Hall 1963). Weber explained that leadership is sometimes based on the charisma
of leaders. Jesus, for example, gained power though his personality and ability
to communicate effectively with his audience (Tucker 1968). Leadership may also
come from tradition. The monarchy, for example, have authority because that has
always been the case (Grey 2009, p. 20). Weber explains that bureaucracy is
based, not on ‘charismatic’ or ‘traditional’ leadership. It is, instead, based
on rational-legal authority; a set of rules that are developed for rational
reasons. He suggests that this results in a more fair, legitimate form of
organizing, that is free from bias (cited in Hall 1963).

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Weber
distinguished between instrumental and value (or substantive) rationality (1922,
p. 12 cited in Alexander 2000). Actions that are instrumentally rational are
part of the process of achieving other goals, and are justifiable in and of
themselves. The actions are rational, but the outcome may not be. For example,
if Mary wanted to smoke a cigarette; she would first need to buy cigarettes. This
act of purchasing cigarettes is instrumentally rational as it facilitates the
outcome: smoking a cigarette (Valaris 2011). Comparatively, actions with value
rationality have rational outcomes, regardless of whether the actions themselves
are justifiable or efficient (Alexander 2000, p. 245). Thinking again of
Valaris’ example of Mary smoking a cigarette; the substantive rationality of
this action requires a value judgement. If Mary believes that smoking is bad, smoking
the cigarette would be a substantively irrational thing to do. Weber explained
that bureaucratic control is typified by its emphasis on instrumental
rationality. His ‘ideal type’ of bureaucracy is one that embodies all bureaucratic
characteristics and as a result, is a highly efficient organization (Grey 2009,
p. 24). He suggested that bureaucracy is the most technically efficient,
rational way of organizing. As a result of its efficiency, bureaucracy also has
the advantage of producing cheap outputs which can be easily measured (Morgan
1986). From this perspective, it may be argued that bureaucracy is not as bad
as critics suggest.

Bureaucratic
organizations are often described as ‘machines’ (Morgan 1986, p. 22). They have
distinct parts that are designed to perform specific tasks, which work together
as a unified whole. This makes them predictable, standard and efficient (du Gay
2000). However, by equating the organization to a machine, employees are
reduced to ‘cogs’ within that machine (Morgan 1986 p. 29). This causes a series
of problems.

Firstly,
bureaucracy can have a detrimental effect on employee motivation (cite).
Employees follow rules and have little autonomy and discretion. As a result, they
are unlikely to feel interested in their work, which results in motivation
diminishing. As such, the quality of their work is likely to suffer. Lam and Lambermont-Ford
(2010) explain this with the modern example of professional bureaucracies. A
professional bureaucracy is an organization that employs knowledgeable, highly
trained experts. They work autonomously, implementing rules or laws that govern
the institution. For example, law firms, accountancy firms and hospitals (p.
56). Here, employees are often extrinsically motivated by pay and training
opportunities. However, as their roles largely involve rule-following and tend
to be repetitive, intrinsic rewards are limited. Resultantly, employees are not
motivated by their jobs. Therefore, although bureaucracies appear to be efficient,
they may result in the production of inferior products.

Secondly,
bureaucracy is criticised for being more focussed on the producer than the
customer (Joss et al 1992). Employees that follow lots of rules, and have
little motivation, are likely not to want to (or be able to) put care and attention
into customer service. Instead, they follow rules which cannot be altered or
broken to satisfy the needs of individual customers, no matter how important it
may be to that customer. Employees who break the rules could be punished. Joss et
al studied the NHS and explained that the producers (administrators, nurse
managers and other management staff) had the majority of control over the
quality of service given to patients. Resultantly, they focussed more on costs
than on the needs of patients and carers. This producer-focus can also slow
down decision making. In some cases, decisions cannot be made by front-line
staff and must be passed up the hierarchy. This makes some tasks unnecessarily
long and complicated, which can be an annoyance to customers (cite__________24/01).

A further
problem regarding the inflexibility of bureaucracy is its inability to
facilitate innovation and change (cite). If everybody carried out their work
according to the rules, nothing would change or progress. Rules and norms would
not be questioned. For some organizations, this is not a problem (E.g.)
producing large quantities of standard products the specification s of which do
not vary for long periods of time, perhaps several years. However, in
industries where adaptation to market condition is vital for survival, ‘bureaucratic
inertia’ (cite) will result in organizations stagnating and failing to compete
efficiently.

Weber
explained that as bureaucracy was the most rational and technically efficient
form of organization; it would spread rapidly.  This, he explained, could create an ‘iron cage’ of
rationality; whereby every experience was organized bureaucratically. From
hospitals, to schools, to the workplace; everything would be guided
regimentally by that which was instrumentally rational (cite). Ritzer (2000)
applied Weber’s idea of the ‘iron cage’ of rationality to modern society,
focussing on McDonald’s as the exemplar of contemporary bureaucracy. Each restaurant
has the same menu, architecture and style. In this pursuit of maximal
efficiency, employees and customers become dehumanized. Ritzer argued that
bureaucracy dehumanizes employees and customers. Although impersonality makes
it efficient; it also removes the relevance of people, as their job becomes
serving the organizational machine. ‘McDonaldization’, as Ritzer termed it, typifies
bureaucratic logic. He, like Weber, explained that it is dominating many areas
of society. He gave the example of it encroaching into education. The National
Curriculum assesses and measures students, increasing predictability and calculability
(p. 149).

Not
only has bureaucracy been criticised for dehumanizing people, it has also been
criticised for causing people to become ‘detached from moral constraints’ (Bauman
1989 p. 4). Bureaucracy is substantively irrational, because it does not
consider the end result of its actions. Employees in bureaucratic organizations
follow rules impersonally and without the preferential treatment of any
individuals. Resultantly, they show no regard for any pain or damage it may
cause.  Bauman refers to the Nazi
Holocaust as being a very extreme example of immoral bureaucratic logic. The Nazis implemented a
set of rules, disregarding the damage they were causing. Bureaucratic control
helped them to carry out genocide of millions of people in the most efficient
way possible (p. 17). Under the logic of bureaucracy, this was instrumentally
rational but clearly not substantively rational. Bauman explains that this
immorality could be harmful, not only in extreme cases, but also in everyday modern
society. Any bureaucratic organization could behave immorally to some extent
and could, therefore, be harmful to its employees or customers. For example, a
hospital that holds implementing the rules of a waiting list in higher regards
than patients individual need for care, or a school that treats all pupils
equally and neglects their individual needs.

Merton
(1940) introduced the idea of ‘goal displacement’. This occurs when a marginal
objective takes precedence over primary objectives; following the rules inadvertently
becomes the purpose of the rules. Merton suggested that people in bureaucracies
become so preoccupied with following the rules that they lose focus of the goal
those rules were in place to achieve. They care more about ‘doing things right’
than ‘doing the right things’, which Drucker (2006) explains may be efficient,
but is not effective. It creates unnecessary ‘red tape’ (Merton 1940, p. 563),
that slows processed down and makes them more difficult. For example, in modern
society, individuals have to fill in lots of forms when going to the doctors or
dentists, and when applying for passports or licenses.

Goal
displacement has been identified in bureaucratic organizations that split
workers into divisions. Selznick (1949) explained that employees tend to
identify more closely with the aims of their teams than the aims of the
organization. As a result, they focus on satisfying the needs of their team at
the expense of the needs of the organization For example, a marketing
department that were set the task of creating an advert. Creating an appealing advert
would be the aim of the team, whereas remaining within budget would be an aim
of the organization. According to Selznick’s logic, the marketing team would be
more interested in producing the best advert possible, than staying within
budget. If they were to go overbudget, the profit margin of the organization
may suffer. Thus, bureaucracy unintentionally becomes bad for the overall
performance of the organization. However, Selznick’s criticism does not apply
to every bureaucratic organization, so should be considered with caution. In
general, bureaucracy may be the most efficient way of organizing, even if it is
sometimes inefficient.

Blau’s
(1955) concept for ‘work-to-rule’ is a form of industrial action. In
bureaucratic organizations, workers can disrupt efficiency by strictly adhering
to all rules in the workplace. He used the example of a US law enforcement
agency; explaining that it was better for the organization if employees ignored
rules such as not working unpaid overtime and reporting attempts of bribery. Abiding
by these rules would create more work for employees and managers. Hence,
bureaucracy may not be the most efficient way of organizing. However, leaving
employees to organize themselves would not necessarily be a better alternative
to a bureaucratic regime. They may instead become more inefficient. It may also
be argued that the problem here is not to be with bureaucracy, but with unhappy
employees. If the organization could satisfy employees whilst still maintaining
some elements of bureaucracy, it may become an efficient, positive working
environment, which employees do not feel the need to disrupt.

The idea
of a ‘mock bureaucracy’ was first introduced by Gouldner (1954). He explained
that in practice, in some bureaucratic organizations; rules are ignored. For
example, if there was a rule about wearing formal clothing at all times, and
managers and employees found this to be impractical and inconvenient; they may
decide to stop implementing the rule. By going in more comfortable, casual
clothes, they break the rules.

Paul
du Gay (2000) defended bureaucracy. His book focussed on the UK public sector;
which has been criticised for being too bureaucratic, for engendering unnecessary
‘red tape’ and for having a producer focus. Du
Gay reiterates Weber’s emphasis on instrumental rationality. He explains that; to
be as efficient as possible, a bureaucracy must be impersonal, fair and must
treat all customers and employees equally. Because of this fairness,
bureaucracy does not suffer from discrimination. Crozier (1964), however,
disagreed with du Gay; explaining that in practice, managers of bureaucratic
organizations may succumb to their prejudices and preferences. Furthermore,
Kanter (1977) identified that managers may indulge in their biases when hiring
new employees. She explained that there is a tendency for them to select individuals
who are from a similar background, education and of the same gender as
themselves. This may result in them overlooking people who are better qualified
for the role. In male dominated environments, this ‘masculine’ control becomes endlessly
perpetuated. Men favour men, and they continue to benefit from the competitive,
aggressive, masculine working environments that exist. In turn, this discourages
women from entering (cite). Although many organizations have initiatives in
place to ensure equal opportunities and diversity; a force of masculinity and
bias in recruitment still exists in bureaucratic organizations that puts women
at a disadvantage (Grey 2009, p. 25). Thus, although bureaucracy appears to
treat everyone fairly in principle, it enables discrimination in practice.

Here,
the fundamental error made by du Gay is one also made by Weber. They both wrongly
assume that bureaucracies exist in their ‘ideal-types’, and analyse them as
such. Instead, they exist in far less perfect forms. Organizations tend to have
some characteristics that are bureaucratic and some that are not (cite). For
example, Langfield-Smith and Greenwood (1998) studied Toyota and cited it as
POST-BUREAUCRATIC?!?…

 

POST-BUREAUCRACY

***History
of pb. Post-bureaucracy, unlike bureaucracy, is centred on trust, empowerment, personal treatment and shared
responsibility. Heckscher (1994) created a list of characteristics which
he, like Weber, calls his ‘ideal-type’. In this version of post-bureaucracy,
consensus and dialogue replace rules, and the power of personal influence
prevails over control from status. Employee promotions are based on competence,
not hierarchy and they are treated more personally than those in bureaucratic
organizations (cite). Post-bureaucracy is also often characterized by more
flexible working conditions, such as part-time, temporary work and tele-working
(cite). It solves many of the problems posed by bureaucracy, and allows for
innovation and change (cite). In the same way that bureaucracy is likened to a
machine, post-bureaucracy can be descried as an organism (Morgan 1986). It
lives, grows, and constantly changes. However, post-bureaucracy is not without
problems.

Without
formal rules, it can be difficult to control and organize employees (cite).
This issue is particularly relevant in large organizations. For example, if a
UK company began operating in America, it may struggle to maintain control and
an image that is consistent with its UK one, if new employees had no rules to
follow. By placing so much trust in employees to work hard and “do the right
thing” (Drucker??), there is the potential, in this situation, for high levels
of disorder and low levels of productivity. Furthermore, post-bureaucracies are
associated with being riskier than bureaucracies (cite). Employees are trusted
to be innovative and to take lots of decisions independently.  With this comes the potential for them to
make poor decisions… eg

A
further problem with post-bureaucracies is that by replacing rules with more
normative forms of control, organizations begin to “govern the soul” (Rose
1989). This control is far deeper than rules and regulations; it changes the
way that employees think and feel. They “promote a new, hypermodern
new-authoritatianism which, potentially is more insidious and sinister than its
bureaucratic predecessor” (Willmott 1993, p. 541). Thus, although
post-bureaucracy overcomes issues associated with innovation and the treatment
of people, it presents problems of its own and may not be a better alternative
to bureaucracy.