Bureaucratic Theory by Max Weber

What Do You Mean By Bureaucracy? 

"Bureaucracy is an organizational structure characterized by many laws, standardized procedures, procedures and requirements, number of desks, meticulous division of labor and responsibility, clear hierarchies and professional interactions between employees that are almost impersonal."- Max Weber


Max Weber Bureaucracy Theory

A German scientist, Max Weber, describes bureaucracy as an institution that is highly organized, formalized, and also impersonal. He also developed the belief that there must be a fixed hierarchical structure for an organization and clear rules, regulations, and lines of authority that regulate it. The bureaucracy of Max Weber  has the following attributes:

Specialization of labor

A formal set of rules and regulations

Well-defined hierarchy within the organization

Impersonality in the application of rules


Weberian Bureaucracy 

Bureaucratic organizations evolved from traditional structures due to the following changes:

In traditional structures, the leader delegates duties and can change them at any time. However, over time, this changed and there was a clear specification of jurisdiction areas along with a distribution of activities as official duties.

In a bureaucratic organization, the subordinates follow the order of superiors but can appeal if they feel the need.

The rules are detailed, stable, and can be easily understood by employees. Additionally, the company registers them in permanent archives. 

Personal property is distinct from property in the workplace. The means of production or administration therefore belong to the bureau. 

The selection of officials shall be based on professional qualification and appointment and shall not be based on an election. In addition, for their service, officials receive a salary as compensation.


Max Weber’s Bureaucratic Form – 6 Major Principles

Max Weber identified the following six core principles of the bureaucratic form:

  • A structured hierarchical structure: Each level governs the level below it in a bureaucratic organization. The level above it too, governs it. The foundation of central planning and centralized decision making is a formal hierarchy. 

  • Rules-based management-To exercise control, the company uses rules. Therefore at higher levels, the lower levels effortlessly execute the decisions made.

  • Organization of Functional Specialties - Specialists do the job. The company often breaks workers into groups depending on the type of work they do or the abilities they possess. 

  • If the organization's purpose is to represent the stockholders, board, or some other institution that motivated it then it is up-focused Up-focused or In-focused mission. On the other hand, it is in-focused if the goal is to serve the company itself and others inside it (like producing income, etc.).

  • Impersonal - all workers are handled fairly by hierarchical organizations. They also fairly treat all clients and do not allow individual differences to affect them. 

  • Employment-oriented Professional Qualifications - Selection is based on technical qualifications and skills as well as employee promotion.

Though criticism has come from several corners of these laws, the organization's hierarchical structure tends to live on.


Features of Bureaucratic Organization

We may find these features or characteristics of the Bureaucratic Organization from the concepts of bureaucratic organization as follows:- 

The high level of the Labor and Specialization Division. 

  • A well-defined chain of command exists. 

  • It follows Rationality, Objectively, and Continuity theory. 

  • The relationship between the members of the association is formal and impersonal. And it's focused not on personalities, but on roles.

  • The rules and regulations are well defined and employee duties and privileges are indicated. Such ideals range from the bottom of the organization to all and must be strictly observed. 

  • Professional credentials are used for selection and promotion. 

  • Relevance is granted only to bureaucratic or legal authority.

Criticism of  Bureaucratic Organization

Max Weber's Hierarchical Management Approach still has several fault lines and has attracted criticism for that. 

The focus is only on rules and laws. 

  • Owing to the formalities and regulations of the Hierarchical Organisation, there would be needless gaps in decision-making. 

  • Owing to so much formality and laws, organization and communication were hindered.

  • Bureaucracy requires a lot of paperwork and has way too much authority, resulting in a lot of time, effort, and resources being wasted. Not optimal for effectiveness. 

  • A hierarchical approach is not ideal for business organizations because of its unnecessary formality. For government agencies, the bureaucratic model might be appropriate.

  • The professional skills of the personnel for promotion and transfers are given too much significance. Dedication and dedication of the worker are not considered. 

  • Human Resource Restricted Scope (HR). Informal groups are not given any meaning and no scope is given to form one.

  • The hierarchical approach of Max Weber served as a solution to the issues of conventional administrative structures. But it was not the optimal solution or "close to perfect." 

  • The bureaucratic system gives top-level management all the significance and control. 

And there are just so many rules and degrees of authority. It gives the workers a greater sense of security. But a window for "red-tapism" is created by bureaucratic management.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question 1: What is Bureaucracy? Also, Explain the Characteristics?

Ans: Definition of bureaucracy: "Bureaucracy is an organizational structure characterized by many laws, standardized procedures, procedures and requirements, number of desks, meticulous division of labor and responsibility, clear hierarchies and professional interactions between employees that are almost impersonal."


According to Max Weber's bureaucratic theory, such a structure was indispensable in large organizations for a large number of workers to perform all tasks structurally. In addition, selection and promotion only occur on the basis of professional credentials in a hierarchical organization. A more detailed description of the bureaucratic principles of management is given below.


The six major principles are -

  • A formal hierarchical structure

  • Rules-based Management

  • Functional Specialty organization

  • Up-focused or In-focused Mission

  • Impersonal

  • Employment-based on Technical Qualifications

Question 2: Why is a Bureaucratic Organization Criticized?

Ans: Here are some reasons:

  • Inflexible and static are the rules. In addition, the focus on these rules and regulations is too strong. 

  • No priority is granted to informal groups. Currently, in most business organizations, informal groups play a significant role. 

  • Bureaucracy usually requires a lot of paperwork, which contributes to a waste of time, resources, and effort as well.

  • In the decision-making process, the rules and formalities result in an unnecessary delay. 

  • Although a hierarchical framework can help government agencies, business organizations need fast decision-making and procedural flexibility. It is not appropriate for the latter, therefore.

  • Although the employee's professional credentials are an important part of his promotion, a hierarchical company does not recognize the commitment and dedication of the employee. 

  • Human Resource Management is limited in scope. 

  • Coordinating and communicating is difficult.