Max Webers Bureaucracy theory Concept and Principles

Max Weber’s bureaucracy theory

Max Weber was a German sociologist who was a pioneer in the field of Bureaucracy theory of management which is the foundation of management in many of the government and military organization in the world today.

He was keen to understand the ways in which the industrialization affected the society. He was concerned about the importance of authority in any social structure.

Bureaucracy theory is based on strict rules and expert authority guidance which he believed would improve the efficiency of the organization’s performance. This system of management avoids biasness and made the job description very clear to everyone in the organizational hierarchy.

Max Webber believed that bureaucracy structure of management is the most rational and logical form of management which would make an organization highly efficient and successful.

According to Rick W. Griffin: “Bureaucracy is a model of organization design based on a legitimate and formal system of authority”

(Neupane, Surendra; Parajuli, Ram Prasad; Jha , Deepak Kumar; Chettri, Tuk Bahadur; Dulal, Gopal Prasad : pg.46)

The leader would not inherit the position but rather the most competent and skillful person would be appointed as the leader. So there is merit based selection rather than Nepotism.

Under the capable leadership, the organization would be more efficient. So bureaucracy focuses on the skills and technical ability of the leader. So Max Weber believed that bureaucratic management is an ideal way of organizing government agencies.

Some of the major characteristics of bureaucracy model as stated by Max Weber are Technical expertise, division of labor, rules policies and procedures, impersonal contribution, and strict chain of command.

Principles of Bureaucracy theory

Bureaucracy theory is based on leadership expertise and is very useful in large organizations. There is no favoritism and strict rules and regulations are followed as per the organizational hierarchy level. The major seven principles of bureaucracy theory are:

Max weber theory
Max weber theory
  • Formal hierarchy structure:

The concept of this principle is that there should be centralization of power in terms of planning and decision making in the organization. The rules and regulations must be strictly followed and the subordinate must be accountable to the immediate supervisor. There must be a well-defined hierarchy of authority with clear lines of authority and control concentrated at the top. Each level of management should be controlled by the level of management above it in the hierarchy and they should control the lower management below them. This will help the organization to proceed in a single direction.

  • Formal rules and norms:

This principle of bureaucracy management implies the need of strict rules and regulations to be followed by the various level of management in an organization. By this principle, the company can maintain a level of discipline to keep the labors in check and to bring the best out of them. This helps in execution of the decisions in the most suitable manner.

  • Specialization:

The organizations can be divided into many departments and units based on their function. These departments are led by experts and specialists. So there is a high degree of job specialization in the employees and the management. This will help the organization to achieve high efficiency in their operation.

  • Equality:

This principle focuses on the equality of all the employees who are judged by the rules, regulations, and rights of the employees set by the organization. So there is no unfair biasness and favoritism in the organization. This will provide a sense of fair judgment and uniform treatment to all.

  • Recruitment based on abilities and qualification:

This principle defines that a manager is fairly recruited on the basis of the skills and technical ability to lead the employees and handle the position. There is no preferential treatment to any candidate due to personal relations or links. This leads to developing the functional expertise in the organization and improve the quality of the operation.

  • An “up-focused” or “in-focused” mission:

According to this principle, there are two types of mission. An “up-focused” mission is the mission in which the sole purpose is to serve the stockholders, board running the organization and the agencies which support the organization. If the mission is “In-focused”, then the sole mission is to serve the goals and objectives of the organization itself and people inside the organization.

  • Systematic filling:

In a bureaucracy system, there is written recorded documents of each and every operation and activity of the organization. These written documents are the permanent record of the operations and act as legal papers as well as future references for the company.

(Sharma, Surendra Raj; Jha , Surendra Kumar: pg 47-49)

Hence these are the basic principles of bureaucracy model of management.

Criticism of Bureaucracy Theory

The model of bureaucracy management is based on specialization and strict rules and regulation guided management. However, the concept of bureaucracy theory became too radical and rigid. The inflexibility of the management caused the private organizations to adopt new methods of management. So there are some criticisms of Bureaucracy theory. They are as follows:

  • Discourages creative and innovative ideas:

Bureaucracy theory is focused on the strict following of guidance of the managers. This kills the creativity of the employees as they blindly follow the lead of the supervisor. They are made to obey the readymade plans, they do not seek for new ways and ideas. Hence they have to follow the monotonous model of operation. This can also lead to frustration of the employee.

  • Formal recording wastes money and effort:

Bureaucracy believes in the system to formally record all the operations whether it be a small or big task in written documents. This is considered as a waste of money and efforts as the management is always focused on cost reduction to develop high efficiency. Use of modern means of recording can be more cost efficient than written documents.

  • Misuse of power:

In the bureaucracy system, power can be easily misused as the manager has superior power than his subordinate. This will cause the manager to misuse the authority and use the power for their personal benefit.

  • Rigidity and inflexible in its ways:

The bureaucracy system is taken as a rigid and stubborn system of management as it does not update its system and methods according to the need of the time and situation.

  • Delay in decision-making process:

In a bureaucracy management, if a decision is to be taken about a certain problem then the decision must be taken by the top level manager in the organization. Hence if a problem occurs then the management cannot take immediate actions but has to wait for the decision of the top level manager.

  • One way communication:

The communication in the bureaucracy system of management is only downward communication in which the information flows from the top level management to the lower level management in the form of rules, regulations, tasks and job. The employees are not able to provide necessary feedbacks to the top level management for further improvement.

(Shrestha : pg 47-50)

Hence, these are the limitations of Bureaucracy theory of management. Despite all its restrictions bureaucracy has become an important theory in present day management. If the negative aspects of the theory such as inflexibility and strict organizational hierarchy are reconciled then it can be very effective and can help an organization to attain organizational goals and achieve maximum output.


Neupane, Surendra; Parajuli, Ram Prasad; Jha , Deepak Kumar; Chettri, Tuk Bahadur; Dulal, Gopal Prasad;. "Business Studies: CLass : XII." Kathmandu: Nawakala Publishers, 2011. 46-50.

Sharma, Surendra Raj; Jha , Surendra Kumar;. "Business Studies : Grade XII." Kathmandu: Sukunda Pustak Bhawan, 2011. 47-49.

Shrestha, Kul Narsingh. "Business Organization and Management." Kathmandu: Nabin Publication, 2065 BS. 47-49.

• Max Weber is a German sociologist who was a pioneer in the field of Bureaucracy theory of management

• Seven principles of Bureaucracy theory are formal hierarchy structure, formal rules and norms, specialization, equality, recruitment based on abilities and qualification, an “up-focused” or “in-focused” mission and systematic filling.

• Its criticisms are: discourages creative and innovative ideas, formal recording wastes money and effort, misuse of power, rigidity and inflexible in its ways, delay in decision making process and one way Communication.




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