Characteristics of bureaucracy

Characteristics of bureaucracy
See also

Bureaucracy in business is type of bureaucratic organization. The term came into use in the 18th century in France. In sociology, the term bureaucracy refers to the particular form of organization of human activities. A characteristic feature of the bureaucracy is to replace the authority of tradition by structured rules.

Features and characteristics of bureaucracy and bureaucratic organization

It is a specific type of organization. An extensive definition of the bureaucracy was formulated by the German sociologist Max Weber (1947). Weber was concerned with the issue of power. He identified three models of bureaucracy: legal-rational (classic), charismatic and traditional. The organization is more effective if it is closer to the model of an ideal bureaucracy.

It should be noted that, in contrast to today's meaning of the Weber's bureaucracy was an alternative to the widespread nepotism and abuse of power. To solve this problem, there is need for workers with average capacity of rational people who impartially and efficiently serve their customers. An important feature of the ideal bureaucracy is rationality, which stems from design of functions and processes.

Characteristics of ideal bureaucracy according to Weber

  • systematically established laws giving as a result full impersonality
  • maximum specialization
  • hierarchical structure of posts and units
  • recruitment of candidates is carried out on the basis of skills and knowledge, usually by the appointment
  • impersonal administration
  • clear division of labour
  • rationality of actions
  • meritocracy - career dependent on achievements
  • communication by written means

Sources of bureaucracy in business

Characteristics of bureaucracy implicate main sources and activities connected with it:

  • external to the organization, associated with such manifestations of social life as religion, military, law, education, etc.,
  • internal, associated with such processes as organizing, planning, financing, etc.,
  • related to the size of organization,
  • related to the personality of the managers,
  • nature of cultural norms in the society,
  • school system,
  • politics,
  • others.

Characteristics of bureaucracy dysfunctions

The following are dysfunctions of bureaucracy:

  • routine and the lack of flexibility of staff
  • difficulty with response to unusual situations
  • supporting inefficient structures without change
  • means becomes objectives
  • dehumanization of relationships, the gap between officials and stakeholders
  • abuse of power by an official
  • rigid structure, the problem with the implementation of innovation in response to changes
  • formation of informal cliques
  • Parkinson's law - the performance of the tasks as late as possible
  • Peter principle - rise to the level of lack of competence on specific post
  • learned incompetence
  • bureaucratic vicious circle

See also:


  • Weber, M. (1946). Bureaucracy. From Max Weber: essays in sociology, 196-244.
  • Blau, P. M. (1956). Bureaucracy in modern society.
  • Downs, A., & Rand Corporation. (1967). Inside bureaucracy (p. 264). Boston: Little, Brown.
  • Thompson, V. A. (1965). Bureaucracy and innovation. Administrative science quarterly, 1-20.