Posts Tagged Impersonality

Dysfunctional Aspects -1

We are talking Dysfunctional Aspects. We talked Rigidity and Impersonality in our previous talk. Today we are going to talk about Displacement of Objectives and Compartmentalization of Activities.


Displacement of Objectives

Rules originally devised to achieve organizational goals at each level become an end in themselves independent of organizational goals. Thompson calls such bureaucratic behavior as a process of “inversion of ends and means”. When individuals holding office at lower levels pursue personal objectives or objectives of sub units, the overall objectives of the organization may be neglected. When objectives get so displaced it is often difficult for managers at higher levels or even for the other constituents of the organizations such as consumers and stock holders to seek redress.


Compartmentalization of Activities

Specialization and division of labor are encouraged in bureaucracies to improve organization effectiveness. But the resulting categorization breeds the notion of watertight compartmentalization of jobs, restricting people from performing tasks that they are capable of performing. For example, a pipe fitter can install a pump, but is prohibited from making the electrical connection. It would also encourage a tendency to preserving existing jobs even when they become redundant. The sequential flow of work may usually have an element of idle time at almost every level. The bickering over respective jurisdictions based on specialization and categorization may also often induce dysfunctional conflict in the place of coordination and cooperation among various submits of an organizations.


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Dysfunctional Aspects

Bureaucracies, particularly in large complex organizations, may have unintended consequences which are often referred to as dysfunctional aspects of bureaucracy. For example, A Commercial real estate or shopping centers electric cabling plan or oceanfront luxury condos layouts require a complex planning. Over the years, there has been much disenchantment with the functioning of bureaucracies which created many antagonists of bureaucracy who prophesied about its gradual demise. The skeptics optimism however, did not fructify. None could propound workable alternatives.


As a result, bureaucracies survived notwithstanding the myriad dysfunctional aspects. It is not possible here to list all the dysfunctional functions caused by what Thompson calls as ‘bureaucratic’ behavior. There is also no agreement on whether all these are really counterproductive, because some of them at least are perceived at times as disguised blessing. The more prominent among the dysfunctional aspects include the following: 

  • Rigidity
  • Impersonality
  • Displacement of Objectives
  • Compartmentalization of Activities
  • Empire building
  • Red Tape

Critics of bureaucracy argue that rules are often and inflexible, encouraging status quoism and breeding resistance to change. Compliance with rules may provide the cover to avoid responsibility for failures. 

Bureaucracies emphasise mechanical way of doing things, giving primacy to organizational rules and regulations than individual’s needs and emotions. Contractual obligations receive primacy, relegating human relations to a back seat. The office a person holds is important than the person per se.

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