Bureaucracy is a notion familiar to almost every person dealing with different administrative structures and institutions, such as hospitals, post offices, or governmental bodies. In simple terms, bureaucracy can be defined as a form of organization with a complex system of rules and procedures. An ordinary person may associate bureaucracy with collecting unnecessary signatures and going from one specialist or authority to another. This paper presents an example of dealing with bureaucracy, demonstrates its shortcomings, and discusses the role of social group memberships.
In my experience, there were many cases of bureaucracy, one of which was related to the educational administrative system. When I decided to apply for a college, I had to wait in long lines in order to fill out the necessary documents. Moreover, due to the strict division of responsibilities, gaining access to various college services was difficult because different departments were responsible for certain facilities. Finally, each step in the enrollment process had to be documented, and endless paperwork was another administrative challenge. This example shows that a bureaucratic approach can make important procedures not only complicated but also time-consuming and frustrating for a client.
Shortcomings of Bureaucracy
It is difficult to deny that there are certain advantages of strict rules and hierarchy that characterize bureaucracy. For example, a rigid system of policies and procedures guarantees the safety of a business, society, and individuals. Moreover, bureaucracy centralizes power and enforces accountability, allowing workers to have specified responsibilities (Farazmand, 2018). However, if the virtues of bureaucracy are not controlled properly, they can easily become its vices.
All rules and regulations of bureaucracy have a positive effect only if they are not excessive; otherwise, they negatively influence the work of employees and the experience of clients. For example, according to Farazmand (2018), division of labor may leave no opportunity for workers to demonstrate initiative or diversify their performance. Therefore, irresponsibility and lack of interest become a serious shortcoming of bureaucratic structures. Each authority separates itself from other departments and focuses on its responsibilities exclusively. I noticed this peculiarity when I was applying for a college: certain departments we unaware of procedures carried out by other authorities. As a result, it was difficult for me to navigate the bureaucratic system of the college without the assistance of the student council.
Another example of the disadvantages of bureaucracy is its excessive impersonality. On the one hand, impersonality allows employees to think rationally and make the right decisions (Farazmand, 2018). However, it may also result in the uncaring treatment of clients, especially in human service organizations. In some institutions, such as hospitals and refugee centers, humane treatment, care, and attention can be more important than objectivity. For people in need, a personalized approach is sometimes more effective than rationality, and it is what creates a good impression of the whole administrative structure.
At the same time, it is possible to name certain solutions aimed to eliminate or minimize the negative effect of bureaucracy. For example, to avoid excessive hierarchy, several authorities with similar responsibilities can be combined into one. In this case, employees’ work will be more diverse, and administrators will be more interested in performing their tasks. As for the problem of impersonality, it is necessary to explain to employees that even though administrative work is often limited to stamps and numbers, a humane attitude should not be neglected. A personalized approach and simpler division of responsibilities together can facilitate bureaucratic procedures.
Bureaucracy and Social Group Membership
When it comes to dealing with bureaucracy, membership in particular social groups may influence the complexity of administrative procedures. For example, the process may become easier for a client when the administrator and the individual belong to the same social group. This idea was underlined by Peters (2018), who focused on political cultures and ethnic groups. He explains that every bureaucratic process is based on communication between administrators and clients, where the shared values and social memberships of both parties play a vital role (Peters, 2018). Common views may give an advantage to certain individuals; for example, administrators can provide services of a higher quality to people of particular social status or ethnicity. In addition, priority can be given to distinctive social groups, such as people with special needs. However, it is possible to suggest that due to impersonality in bureaucratic apparatus, these cases can be rare.
To summarize, nowadays, bureaucracy has become a norm of modern society. Almost every individual using the services of colleges, administrative offices, and other institutions experienced difficulties dealing with paperwork, waiting in lines, and going through the multiple layers of the bureaucratic system. Among the most common shortcomings of bureaucracy are the excessive division of responsibilities and impersonality. Another peculiarity of bureaucracy is that it is based on communication, and membership in particular social groups may facilitate administrative processes for a client. Some of the ways to minimize the disadvantages of bureaucracy are to diversify the responsibilities of workers and focus on a more customer-oriented attitude.
Farazmand, A. (2018). Handbook of bureaucracy (2nd ed.). Routledge.
Peters, B. G. (2018). The politics of bureaucracy: An introduction to comparative public administration (7th ed.). Routledge.