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Bureaucratic Theory by Max Weber

Max Weber, a renowned German sociologist, was the first person to use the term “bureaucracy” towards the end of the 19th. Max did not only use the word; he also believed that the bureaucratic management system is the most effective system to set up and run an organization. Hence, the bureaucratic management system was formulated to help achieve the goal of an organization and run the business efficiently. In this post, we shall discuss Max’s bureaucratic management theory in detail for a better understanding of the concept.

Bureaucratic Theory

Bureaucratic Management – What the Theory Entails

Max Weber was able to discuss bureaucratic management from two different angles which are behavioral and structural. And having sound knowledge of both points will help managers, readers or management students understand the concept more.

From the behavioral angle, Max tried to establish that there is a hierarchy of division of authority and labor within an organization. But then, thing one needs to understand is that such systems, according to Max, function based on laid down rules.

Max’s structural point of view regarding management is another angle by which one can understand the bureaucratic management system. He established that the bureaucratic management system is an organized structure of the human relationship.

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However, there is something unique about bureaucratic managers. They operate with a set of laid down rules created to guide employees. In the bureaucratic system, things are usually done in an organized manner. Rules and regulations are also made, and people are bound to follow them. In other words, any order issued by a higher authority must be obeyed by the subordinates for the smooth running of the said organization. So, in a nutshell, there is orderliness in a bureaucratic system, and things are done according to the laid down principles of the organization.

Max Weber had so much fate in the bureaucratic system and believed that it is the only way management can exercise total control over workers in an organization. And he felt the system could make achieving targeted goals or results, as well as boosting efficiency is possible.

Max’s theory placed more priorities on efficiency. And compared to some of the leaders we have today, Max was entirely different. His management style was based on strict rules in the workplace and separation of power. And if Max were here today, he would have heavily criticized many leaders and managers for being open to new ideas from subordinates and agree to flexible work arrangements that are against the bureaucratic system. He was more concerned with the speed, precision, knowledge of files, unity, reduction of personal cost and the total subordination of the employees.

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Max Weber’s management style also regarded as bureaucratic management made it impossible for collaborations and creativity to thrive in the work environment. He wanted a system void of risk-taking or flexibility. Below are some of the focuses of the Max Weber bureaucratic management theory.

  • Accurate Record Keeping

Max Weber’s bureaucratic management theory was based on strict record keeping. On this note, managers are expected to take accurate records of things that happen within the said organization.

The idea is partly to tackle or prevent a possible reoccurrence of specific issues. Keeping detailed records of the responsibilities in an organization, according to Max’s theory will help to avoid any form of misunderstanding among employees. And when an employee calls in sick or turns up late for a shift for one reason or the other, managers are also expected to monitor the situation so that it does not end up becoming a habit.

Managers can also request to know how subordinates are spending the time meant for work. So, workers, on the other hand, also need to keep a proper record of their hours as well as the progress of work.

  • Job Roles Delegated And Followed Strictly

Max Weber’s bureaucratic management theory focuses on is the delegation of responsibilities to subordinates or employees within an organization. Max believed that tasks should be assigned to workers based on their skill levels and the ability for efficiency. Plus there be nothing like a flexible role. In other words, each employee must be aware of their responsibilities and functions within the respective departments and organization at large and also stick to them.

Max believed that performing other duties outside an employee’s defined roles will lead to disruption of the hierarchy of authority. And as a result of that, collaboration in any form, as well as creative thinking is forbidden in the bureaucratic management system. And power distribution is also the order of the day. In other words, subordinates are mandated to report to those high above them.

  • Hire Based on Qualification Alone

Max Weber’s management style also includes hiring the ideal candidate for a job. He believed that fixing employees in job positions they are qualified for will enable them to be more efficient and deliver the expected result. Max’s theory also disregarded nepotism or a deviation from this management standard and believes that if someone is not qualified for a job, then the individual in question is not the perfect match for that position.

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A candidate might be easygoing or have the ability to put on a good performance even in a team setting. But that does not mean that the said person is the perfect match for the job. Max Weber’s bureaucratic management leadership style places more emphasis on the fact that hiring decisions should be more on the experience and expertise of candidates.

  • Work-Related Relationship Permitted

Weber’s bureaucratic management system discourages personal relationships between workers, particularly during working hours. He believed that working hours should be used for work only and not to discuss personal issues.

Also, working relationships should be guided by rules and regulations according. His management theory also discouraged the sharing of ideas or collaborations during working hours. He believed that the work environment is not a social gathering. And for workers to be more efficient and productive, they must invest every minute of their working time on the job they are hired to do.

About Sonia Kukreja

I am a mother of a lovely kid, and an avid fan technology, computing and management related topics. I hold a degree in MBA from well known management college in India. After completing my post graduation I thought to start a website where I can share management related concepts with rest of the people.