Why Bureaucracy has a Bad Name

Why Bureaucracy has a Bad Name

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Why Bureaucracy has a Bad Name

The study pays attention to bureaucracy, which refers to a form of governance and decision-making where specific individuals or groups have the authority to determine the course of action. The study begins by describing bureaucracy to get a clear meaning of the term before proceeding to describe why it is bad. Next, it explains why bureaucracy has a bad name by showing how the approach deprives people of democracy and may result in lack of engagement and inequality. The study then describes some of the positive aspects of bureaucracy and then gives a rebuttal to emphasize why many people criticize the approach. The paper also provides various recommendations that may help to suppress bureaucracy before providing a summary of the whole report. The chief argument is that bureaucratic forms have a bad name because they hamper democracy and encourage the views and desires of influential people while paying little attention to less influential parties.

Max Weber (1864-1920) is attributed to be the developer of the concept of bureaucracy. He described the key features of bureaucracies, and provided an explanation for the historical development of bureaucratic institutions. According to the developer of the term, the defining aspects of bureaucracy evidently distinguishes it from other forms of groups based on non-legal aspects of authority (Olsen, 2005). The appearance of bureaucracy as a preferred form of organization intensified with the emergence of a money-based economy, which ultimately resulted in the development of capitalism (Olsen, 2005). Instrumental firms such as public stock business corporations soon sprout because their bureaucratic firms enabled them to address the various needs of capitalist production more adequately and competently than small-scale producers (Olsen, 2005). However, modern views of bureaucracy tend to depict it as incompetent, insensitive, and undemocratic.

Specifically, bureaucracy refers to an intricate organization that has multifaceted processes and systems. The existing processes and systems often slow down decision-making, and are often enacted to uphold control and uniformity within the firm (Koybasi et al., 2017). A bureaucracy stands for the approaches that are largely established in large firms and governments. Often, bureaucracy is applied in the management and administration of a group’s rules and regulations. A bureaucrat adheres to certain implicit assumptions regarding a firm and how it works (Koybasi et al., 2017). One common assumption is that the firm cannot depend on an open structure of operations, which is either too uncertain or intricate to survive (Koybasi et al., 2017). More fundamentally, it is imperative to distinguish between bureaucracy and administration or governance because some governance structures are not bureaucratic, while many bureaucratic systems do not constitute administrative structures.

Bad Aspects of Bureaucracy

A major concern surrounding bureaucracy is that the process is not democratic, and only few individuals have the authority to make solid decisions on critical issues. Suzuki and Hur (2019) note that bureaucratic rules and regulations are not very beneficial when unanticipated circumstances emerge because they tend to be notoriously undemocratic, yet disobeying existing laws and regulations could inhibit the precise actions needed to attain organizational objectives. Suzuki and Hur (2019) further inform that the reality of bureaucracy in today’s society is one that stresses on authority but lack the backing of professional apparatus to encourage sustainability. Unfortunately, lack of democracy and authoritarian leadership often result in revolt and opposition. Situations where only a few people have the authority to make decisions deprive others of their fundamental rights and liberty (Suzuki & Hur, 2019). Often, minority groups and those without power are the victims of bureaucratic structures.

Indonesia is an example of a country where bureaucracy prevails but recent developments indicate that various groups work to introduce needed reforms. Some people in government offices derail operations and service delivery in the way they take time to solve simple matters (Iqbal et al., 2021). Some services also delay because it takes much time to get approval from people in authority. However, as an indication of the adverse effects associated with bureaucracy, bureaucratic appointments and institutions in the country are increasingly coming under the limelight due to a trend of political and institutional leaders misusing their power (Hajar, 2015). The government and public officers now understand that the implementation of relevant policy is critical to the future of governance and bureaucratic structures in the country. Nonetheless, those working to revive the situation in Indonesia must remember that the prosperity of bureaucratic reforms depends significantly in the dedication and leadership at both the regional and national levels of government (Gaus et al., 2017). Reformers must remember that without civic leadership and dedication, any implementation of bureaucratic change is subject to failure (Suzuki & Hur, 2019). Unless Indonesia takes these factors into consideration it will continue to witness the challenges it has encountered in its attempts to reform existing structures and achieve a less bureaucratic system.

It is also possible to witness bureaucratic forms in the U.S. and an analysis of how they operate reveals the negative effects associated with the structure. With thousands of dissimilar agencies, it is highly likely the federal bureaucracy could run into constraints with institutions encountering overlapping directives and regulations (Monteiro & Adler, 2021). Team leaders must make decisions that may take time in many bureaucracies in the U.S. Most of these bureaucracies are naturally despotic and competitive. It implies that bureaucrats, particularly at the elevated levels, acknowledge that restricted resources exist to meet the needs of their bureaucracies, so they will go a step higher to amplify the strength and position of their bureaucracy without caring for the well-being of others (Monteiro & Adler, 2021). The initiative can sometimes be in the form of simply stressing to Congress the significance of their bureaucratic obligation, but it also implies that the bureaucracy will try to expand its budgetary allocation by depleting all resources allocated to it annually. The practice makes it harder for legislators to reduce the bureaucracy’s budget in future, a plan that excels at the expense of changes in budgetary allocation (Monteiro & Adler, 2021). In this manner, the bureaucracy will ultimately expand far past what is needed and form bureaucratic waste that would otherwise be distributed and used more appropriately among other bureaucracies.

Based on the argument above, it is apparent bureaucracy results in inequality and may favor those who have more influence and resources. Whereas a bureaucracy should benefit a society by forming structures that help to improve productivity and safety, the rigid laws and policies that must be followed sometimes favor some people, especially in scenarios where one must partner with some money in the form of corruption (Koybasi et al., 2017). It is also possible to encounter conflicts when resources are not distributed fairly. Such forms of inequality could result in significant cases of social and health problems with more cases emerging in areas that receive inadequate supplies due to high bureaucracy levels.


Even though bureaucracy usually has a bad name, it is possible to identify certain positive effects associated with the structure. Some parties support bureaucracy arguing that it encourages specialization. Wahab and Jawando (2008) further assert that a bureaucratic institution offers the merits of f specialization because every party is assigned a specialized role to perform. Hence, it is possible to perform a wide range of functions without overlying on a specific body or source of skill. Another benefit of bureaucracy is that it is possible to achieve uniformity because the approach encourages centralization of power (Wahab & Jawando, 2008). Moreover, social research indicates that many workers intellectually advance in bureaucratic conditions and environments. According to this finding, bureaucrats have achieved higher notions of education, personal responsibility, and intellectual activities (Wahab & Jawando, 2008). Another reason why some support bureaucracy is that it Max viewed it as the most technically proficient form of organization, having specific skills and capability, and being able to perform a wide range of functions.


The identified positive effects of bureaucratic structure do not counter the fact that the form could cause undesirable outcomes, which could be difficult to remedy. It is difficult to disregard the fact that even though bureaucracy encourages specialization, it deters some parties from contributing towards decision-making and instead places power on specific individuals who may choose to handle what comes before them as they wish. Hence, it is essential to take measures that would regulate the adverse effects of bureaucracy.


Operators at various levels can embrace measures that may help to minimize or eliminate bureaucracy. Knowing what a team or group wants to get done may be instrumental in suppressing bureaucracy. Usually, bureaucracy becomes more influential when people pay more attention to processes and disregard what the potential end result would be. Hence, it is imperative to understand what one is trying to do, identify the shortest path there, instead of complicating things further. The team should visualize the desired outcomes, and maintain the attention on that (Wahab & Jawando, 2008). Besides, considering that bureaucracy has to do with verification and authority from governing authorities, doing away with paperwork as much as possible would help to address the issue in the most effective manner (Rey et al., 2019). Adopting relevant computer this time that technology offers a solution to many organizational operations. Shifting to electronic forms will minimize human intervention, thus eradicating instances where some decisions take longer than necessary yet it is possible to come up with swift decision when using computer software (Rey et al., 2019). Cutting out processes is another suitable way for eradicating bureaucratic forms and restoring a situation where as many people have the chance to intervene on key issues to avoid delay and authoritarian practices where only certain groups must oversee activities that can happen without much restriction and delay. More fundamentally, empowering people presents a better chance to overcome bureaucracy. Wahab and Jawando (2008) write that often leaders become a bottleneck, calling for his verification before anything can happen. Worse yet is when verification is required various times along the process, implying that it has to be shifted back and forth several times. Therefore, an appropriate way would be guide people on how to handle various tasks and allow them make approvals on certain issues. Nonetheless, failing to consider such options could derail attempts to counter bureaucracy.


The study provides description that show why bureaucracy is bad as well as offers a counterargument to illustrate its positive side. A key concern surrounding bureaucracy is that the approach is void of democracy. Leaders in bureaucratic structures have the authority to make decisions without engaging others, a process that sometimes take time. The delays witnessed in bureaucratic systems deter many people from enjoying needed services, as well as deprive so many people of their fundamental rights. The study shows that bureaucracy is associated with authoritarian governance, which could spark opposition. The study refers to Indonesia as an example of a nation that strives to overcome bureaucratic structures. The nation has made significant strides in making needed changes, but more must happen to save the country from the harsh effects of abiding by bureaucratic forms. The U.S. also witnesses instances of bureaucracy at various levels because leaders must make decisions before sharing their thoughts with their subjects. It emerges that some bureaucracies take advantage of the situation to get more resources to the detriment of others. However, bureaucracy turns out to be a positive approach because it encourages specialization and makes it easy to perform a wide range of tasks. The study presents recommendations that may help to counter bureaucracy. Some of the most effective forms for suppressing bureaucracy include knowing what one wants, taking advantage of technology, and empowering others to make decisions.  


Gaus, N., Sultan, S., & Basri, M. (2017). State bureaucracy in Indonesia and its reforms: An overview. International Journal of Public Administration, 40(8), 1-12. doi:10.1080/01900692.2016.1186179

Hajar, B. (2015). Bureaucracy and governance in Indonesia: Study on West Sulawesi Province. Procedia Economics and Finance, 23, 223-227. doi: 10.1016/S2212-5671(15)00348-2

Iqbal, M., Rahmawati, D., & Saputro, U. (2021). Bureaucratic reform in Indonesia: Best and bad practice perspective. Asian Review, 33(2), 34-54. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/351578663_Bureaucratic_Reform_in_Indonesia_Best_and_Bad_Practice_Perspective

Koybasi, F., Ugurlu, C., & Bakir, A. (2017). The factors that influence bureaucracy and professionalism in schools: A grounded theory study. Journal of Education and Practice, 8(8), 196-207. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1139040.pdf

Monteiro, P., & Adler, P. (2021). Bureaucracy for the 21st century: Clarifying and expanding our view of bureaucratic organization. The Academy of Management Annals, 1-80. doi:10.5465/annals.2019.0059

Olsen, J. (2005). Maybe it is time to rediscover bureaucracy. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 16(10), 1-24. doi:10.1093/jopart/mui027

Rey, C., Pitta, N., Ramonas, D., & Sotok, P. (2019). Agile purpose: Overcoming bureaucracy. Management Ideas for a Better World, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-17674-7_6

Suzuki, K., & Hur, H. (2019). Bureaucratic structures and organizational commitment: Findings from a comparative study of 20 European countries. Public Management Review, 22(6), 877-907. https://doi.org/10.1080/14719037.2019.1619813

Wahab, O., & Jawando, O. (2008). The effects of bureaucracy and its implications for adhocracy in the workplace: A study of Lagos State University. International Journal of Development and Management Review, 3(1), 16-24. https://www.ajol.info/index.php/ijdmr/article/view/47940/34308

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