Max Weber’s Bureaucratic Management Theory


Bureaucratic management theory developed by Max Weber, contained two essential elements, including structuring an organization into a hierarchy and having clearly defined rules to help govern its members.

Max Weber (1864-1920), a German sociologist; described a theory to operate an organization in an effective way which is known as the Bureaucratic management approach or Weberian bureaucracy.

Max Weber’s work was oftentimes interpreted as a caricature of modern bureaucracies with all of their shortcomings.

But it was more than that. Weber’s work was indented for displacing the old organizational structures of the industrialization period.

According to Max Weber, the Bureaucratic management approach emphasized the necessity of organizations to operate in a rational way instead of following the “arbitrary whims” or irrational emotions and intentions of owners and managers.

He found different characteristics in bureaucracies that would effectively conduct decision-making, controlling resources, protecting workers and accomplishment of organizational goals.

Bureaucratic management approach developed by Max Weber is not suitable for business organizations but may be suitable for government organizations.

Max Weber described 6(six) principles of the Bureaucratic management approach.

6 Principles of Bureaucratic Management Approach

  1. Proper Division of Labor
    Division of labor specialization should be fixed and there should be a balance between power and responsibilities.
  2. Chain of Command
    The chain of command or organizational hierarchy should be constructed in a way that information related to decisions and works can flow effectively from top to bottom.
  3. Separation of personal and official property
    Owners and organization’s assets are separate and can to be treated as same by the owner or the organization.
  4. Application of Consistent and Complete Rules
    There should be proper rules and regulations in the organization for running the organization. These rules should be followed in every step of the organization and they are equally applicable to every member of the organization.
  5. Selection and Promotion Based on Qualifications
    The selection and promotion of workers should be based on equalization like; skills, experience, age. It should not be influenced by personal relations and benefits. Training in job requirements and skills. There is a difference between management and other parts of organization and training and improving skills of management is important.

Features of Bureaucratic Organization

From the principles of bureaucratic organization, we can find these characteristics or features of Bureaucratic Organization are as follows:-

  • The high degree of Division of Labor and Specialization.
  • There is a well-defined chain of command.
  • It follows the principle of Rationality, Objectively and Consistency.
  • The relationship among the member of the organization is Formal and Impersonal relations. And it’s based on positions, not personalities.
  • Rules and Regulations are well defined and it indicates the duties and rights of the employees. These rules apply to everyone from to bottom of the organization and must be strictly followed.
  • Selection and Promotion are based on Technical qualifications.
  • Only Bureaucratic or legal power is given importance.

Criticism of Bureaucratic Organization

Bureaucratic Management Approach of Max Weber also has some fault-lines and received criticism for it.

  • The emphasis only on rules and regulations.
  • There will be unnecessary delays in decision-making due to formalities and rules of Bureaucratic Organization.
  • Coordination and communication hampered because of too much formality and rules.
  • Bureaucracy involves a lot of paperwork and has just too much level of authority which results in a lot of wastage of time, effort and money. Not ideal for efficiency.
  • Because of its too much formality, a Bureaucratic approach is not suitable for business organizations. The bureaucratic model may be suitable for government organizations.
  • Too much importance is given to the technical qualifications of the employees for promotion and transfers. Dedication and commitment of the employee are not considered.
  • Limited scope for Human Resource (HR). No importance is given to informal groups and neither any scope is given to form one.

Max Weber’s bureaucratic approach worked as a solution to problems of traditional administrative systems. But it was not the perfect or “close to perfect” solution.

The bureaucratic structure gives all the importance and power to top-level management.

And the rules and levels of authority are just too much. It gives a greater sense of security to the employees. But bureaucratic management gives a window for “red-tapism”.