Weber's Bureaucratic Organization
Max Weber was a German sociologist, political economist and administrative scholar who contributed to the study of bureaucracy and administrative literature during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Max Weber was a member of the classical perspective of management, and his writing contributed to the Scientific School of Thought of management. Weber's ideas on bureaucracy stemmed from society during the Industrial Revolution. As Weber understood society, particularly during the industrial revolution of the late nineteenth century in which he lived, society was being driven by the passage of rational ideas into culture which, in turn, transformed society into an increasingly bureaucratic entity.
Bureaucracy is a complex means of managing life in social institutions that includes rules and regulations, patterns, and procedures that are designed to simplify the functioning of complex organizations. An example of bureaucracy would be the forms used to pay one's income taxes. They require specific information and procedures to fill them out. Included in that form, however, are countless rules and laws that dictate what can and can't be tied into one's taxes. Bureaucracy simplifies the process of paying one's taxes by putting the process into a formulaic structure, but simultaneously complicates it by adding rules and regulations that govern the procedure.Figure 1
Bureaucracy in the Workplace
Weber's theories on bureaucracy included topics, such as specialization of the work force, merit system, standardized principles, and structure and hierarchy in the workplace. In his writing, Weber focused on the idea of a bureaucracy, which differs from a traditional managerial organization because workers are judged by impersonal, rule-based activity with promotion based on merit and performance and not on immeasurable qualities. "Weberian" bureaucracy is also characterized by hierarchical organization, delineated lines of authority in a fixed area of activity, action taken on the basis of and recorded in written rules, and bureaucratic officials requiring expert training. In a bureaucracy, career advancement depends on technical qualifications judged by organization, not individuals. Weber's studies of bureaucracy contributed to classical management theory by suggesting that clear guidelines and authority need to be set in order encourage an effective workplace. Weber did not see any other alternative to bureaucracy and predicted that this would to an "iron cage," or a situation in which people would not be able to find a way to get out of a bureaucracy, and society would become increasingly more rational. Weber viewed this as a bleak outcome that would affect individuals' happiness as they would be forced to function in a highly rational society with rigid rules and norms without the possibility to change it. Of course, this bleak situation and the view of management of society is not what ended up happening with the beginning of the behavioral management movement in the 1920's.