Bureaucracy and Power Human Services Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

An empowered employee may disobey rules and procedures to help a customer and in turn the organization itself.

For further analysis of delegation and empowerment, we need to understand the concept of power itself. In bureaucracies, work is simply done by following preset procedures. Leadership doesn't usually have to impose power, in fact power is granted to employees to choose the best available choice (decision-making) cohering with the rules and regulations. Most discussions on power often incorporate the five categories of the social power identified by the psychologists John French and Bertram Raven (1959). These five classic types of power include reward, coercive, legitimate, referent, and expert. Reward, a source of power is based on a person's ability to control resources and reward others; while the target of this power must appreciate these rewards. Coercive power is as the name suggests, related to fear. The person with coercive power has the ability to inflict punishment on another or threaten to warn them of an undesirable outcome. The legitimate power source originates from the internalized values of the opponent that give a legitimate right to the agent to influence them. The referent power comes from the desire on part of the opponent, to identify with the agent's wielding power. They desire to identify with the powerful person, regardless of the outcomes. The expert power is based on the point to which others attribute knowledge and expertise to the power holder. Experts are perceived to have knowledge or understanding only in certain specialized areas.

A debate on Power would essentially include the basis and sources of power. The basis of powers is the attributes, skills or simply the source of power that allows a senior official to influence the behavior of his subordinates. In a typical bureaucracy, the source of power is very often the position power or the legitimate power. "Progressive" bureaucracies are usually defined by the power of expertise. And, the most common power-base is persuasion which is applied over a subordinate. In cases of opportunity, the power usually becomes coercive or persuasive in nature.

Bureaucracy Concerns

According to Weber (1976), the attributes of modern bureaucracy include its "impersonality, concentration of the means of administration, a leveling effect on social and economic differences and implementation of a system of authority that is practically indestructible." Some concerns with regards to bureaucracy were identified by Weber as:

The historical and administrative reasons for the process of bureaucratization (especially in the Western civilization)

The impact of the rule of law upon the functioning of bureaucratic organizations

The typical personal orientation and occupational position of a bureaucratic officials as a status group

The most important attributes and consequences of bureaucracy in the modern world." (Wikipedia)

Components of an Organization

After having scrutinized the bureaucratic power structure and its efficacy, we need to establish a modus operandi for its implementation into human service organizations. First of all we have to assess the areas requiring an overhaul. Any organization is normally composed of following pragmatic facets (Tapscott, 1993).

Structure (hierarchical or networked)

Scope (internal or external)

Resource focus (capital or human)

State (static or dynamic)

Personal Focus (managers or professionals)

Key Drivers (reward or commitment)

Direction (management commands or self-management)

Basis of action (control or empowerment to act)

Individual motivation (satisfy superiors or achieve team goals)

Learning (specific skills or broader competencies)

Basis for compensation (position in hierarchy or accomplishment)

Relationships (competitive or cooperative)

Employee attitude (detachment or identification)

Dominant requirements (sound management or leadership)

Restructuring and Reengineering

Bureaucracy as discussed at length is a form of organization characterized by a rational, goal-directed hierarchy, impersonal decision making, formal controls, and subdivision into managerial positions and specialization of labor. Bureaucratic organizations are tall consisting of hierarchies with many levels of management. In a tall structure, people become relatively confined to their own area of specialization. Bureaucracies are driven by a top-down or command and control approach in which managers provide considerable direction and have considerable control over others. Other features of the bureaucratic organization include functional division of labor and work specialization.

To transform an existing outfit into another form of organizational structure, few changes will not bring any worthwhile dividend. Few suggestions in this regard are appended below:

phenomenal change in hierarchical structure will be necessitated.

With the changes in hierarchical structure, job descriptions of each individual will require adjustments.

A complete re-engineering of processes will be required. Clean slate approach can be suitably employed to increase system efficacy.

Reorganizing the structure would also require restructuring the formal decision-making framework by which job tasks are divided, grouped, and coordinated.

Reorientation of casual working environment will be necessitated. Formalization is an important aspect of bureaucratic structure. It is the extent to which the units of the organization are explicitly defined and its policies, procedures, and goals are clearly stated.

Comprehensive standard operating procedures will be formulated for smooth functioning of routine work.

Specialization is another facet of bureaucratic organizations. Areas of work and responsibilities of each employee will be clearly demarcated.

Rules and regulations will be framed in accordance with labor laws and applied unilaterally following no exceptions.

Powers will have to be delegated with responsibility to avoid clustering of pending decisions at the top.

A comprehensive system of checks and balances should be introduced.

All proceedings and daily working will be documented through formal correspondence and a record to be maintained.

A formal appraisal system will be established to monitor and reward performances of the employees.

A suitable compensation system compatible with the bureaucratic form of organizations will be adhered to.

To reduce employees' turn over and increase their efficiency, a comprehensive human resource development system will be necessitated.


Bureaucratic organizations work effectively where there is no innovative methodology required especially in the service sector, which has to follow set procedures. These organizations are characterized by their hierarchy with bosses at the top and workers at the bottom. Then there is division of labor which implies that different people do different specialized tasks. Moreover there are standard operating procedures for describing the duties of workers. The best thing about bureaucratic system is that everyone is supposed to be treated equally and things are meant to get done. Taking things to fruition is important. Human Service Organizations do not have to produce anything. Their top priority is to provide best possible service in the prescribed way. Human Service Organizations will therefore need to redefine their goals formalize their configuration. They require alignment with the bureaucratic structured setups if they want to interact with the government departments amicably and make best utilization of new system being invoked.


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