Ruth Hoogland DeHoog
University of North CarolinaatGreensboro
A sickness found in governmental organizations that reduces their effectiveness in meeting policy and program goals in an efficient, yet responsive manner.
Modern bureaucracy has been viewed by many observers as an efficient method of structuring large organizations that perform routine and complex tasks. The Weberian model of legal-rational authority as found in bureaucracy is believed to be an ideal that in practice may take varied forms. Nonetheless, certain features are considered most common: hierarchy, division of labor, adherence to written rules, record-keeping, objective and impartial decisionmaking, and full-time, expert career professionals. Bureaucracy as an efficient machine is a metaphor for its ability to perform tasks consistently, impartially, and economically.
However, modem bureaucracy has its critics in organization theory, as well as among the general public. Their criticisms range from the witty to the sophisticated. Several simple "laws" of bureaucracy draw attention to "dysfunctional," even "pathological," administrative behaviors, that is, behaviors that are considered pathological because they do not enable the organization to accomplish its goals. For example, Parkinson's Law is "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion," and the Peter Principle states, "Employees tend to be promoted to their level of incompetence." These light-hearted jabs at bureaucracy point to the perceived inefficiency and incompetence of bureaucrats.
More serious criticisms of bureaucracy were written in the mid-to-late twentieth century by organization theorists who believed that seemingly