Characteristics of Bureaucratic Organizations


Characteristicsof Bureaucratic Organizations

Bureaucraciesare structures designed to control the activities and functions oforganizations. The objective of this research paper is to describebasic bureaucratic characteristics according to Max Weber. The paperalso discusses how modern bureaucracies have changed since Weber`swriting.

BasicCharacteristics of Bureaucracies

Accordingto Weber, one of the primary features of bureaucracies is theirhierarchical nature of authority. They have a pyramid structure inthat there are very few people at the top who exercise a lot of powerwhile there are many at the bottom with little authority (Waldo,1948). That implies that main directions and decisions are made bythe people at the top while those at the bottom implement what hasalready been decided.

Theindividuals is entrusted with specific responsibilities and hence arehighly specialized (Waldo, 1948). There are clear rules of engagementand roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and hence nooverlapping or duplication of functions. The consequence of that, isthat these individuals become highly skilled on the acquisition ofexperience and, therefore, enhancing their expertise in the variousfields. They become authorities in their unique specifications.

Anotherfundamental characteristic is that bureaucracies` have definiteboundaries with particular goals and objectives (Waldo, 1948). Theyare entrusted with achieving specific mission within the organizationand the scope of their goals is well stated (Godwyn &amp Gittell,2012). They, therefore, cannot usurp their mandate and adoptfunctions outside their jurisdictions.

Thebureaucracies have clearly defined rules that ensure that policiesare implemented as designed and continuously. There is consistency inthe implementation to bring about the exact desired outcomes. Thebureaucrats are politically neutral in all their operations. That isbecause they adhere to comprehensive and extensive regulations thatdetach them from political administrations (Waldo, 1948). In turn,there are low levels of political interferences in the operations ofthe bureaucracies.


Incomparison, modern bureaucracies have changed since Weber`s writing.Boards and commissions have replaced the single executive officersthat used to head the organizations (Waldo, 1948). Authority andaccountability are shared, and consultation is emphasized in decisionmaking. The chairperson or the secretary of such boards andcommissions merely act to guide the affairs of the group while theeventual decision is a product of the combined effort. There is nodefinite and concrete role assigned to the individual. Teamwork isemphasized.

Thejurisdictions are broadly defined, and the goals and authorities ofthe bureaucracies are vague (Waldo, 1948). There is overlapping andduplication of functions as no role is specific to an individual.Whereas the mission of the administration could be known, thestrategies to accomplish them are quite diverse based on theperspectives of each member. That fuels competition and an emergenceof conflicts is not uncommon.

Bureaucratshave political affiliations which are a consequence of the unendingcompetition. In an attempt to outdo each other, members of boards andcommissions look for support from other sectors of the administrationleading to political alignments.


Theessential characteristics of bureaucracies have changed since Weberarticulated them in the early 1900s.There has been a shift fromauthoritative executives that exercised an immense power to boardsand commissions that are widely consultative. The terrain hasundergone a transformation in various ways (Etzioni, 1961). Modernbureaucracies are quite obscure regarding their operations leading tothe emergence of competition which in turn has eradicated politicalneutrality (Waldo, 1948). However the chance for drastic individualdecisions that could hurt entire organizations has been minimized.


Etzioni,A. (1961). Complexorganizations: A sociological reader.New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Godwyn,M., &amp Gittell, J. H. (2012). Sociologyof organizations: Structures and relationships.Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press.

Waldo,D. (1948). Theadministrative state: A study of the political theory of Americanpublic administration.New York: Ronald Press Co.