I’m a bureaucrat.
I appreciate bureaucracy for its strengths and weaknesses.
There are reasons bureaucracies have existed for thousands of years. A few — they help leaders retain their power; they keep processes alive; they provide stability; and they provide jobs.
Depending on your POV, these reasons can be good or bad. I can tell you my perspective — definitely love-hate.
- bureaucracy is there to do its job.
- it’s there to enable the process.
- bureaucracy keeping me out of jail by keeping me compliment with the law.
- bureaucracy getting in my way.
- robotic processes.
- confusing forms and instructions.
These are just some thoughts on bureaucracy’s role in the lives of millions of government workers and billions of humans. Give them some thought.
How do you view bureaucracy?
Here is my answer in the form of an anecdote.
Last night the TV Land channel aired the Tom Hanks movie Big, where Hanks suddenly wakes up and finds himself a ten year old in a grownup’s body. Fast forward in the movie to where he has to go to some nameless faceless government office on his quest to get his old self back.
Hanks and his friend wait on a disorderly line and finally get to the front. They appear bewildered and in need of help. They encounter a customer service representative who is amiable enough but clearly finds it funny that they will likely not get what they need for awhile. Her words: “Fill out these forms in triplicate. The wait time is four weeks, and if you’re lucky you’ll hear something in six.”
The movie was made more than 20 years ago, in 1988, but how far is that attitude really from the one that prevails today?
Anyway, watching this, my daughter asked me, “What just happened?”
I couldn’t give her a good answer so I just said, “Government, sweetie. It’s the government.”
And it’s sad that the very word automatically means slowness, laziness, and a lack of accountability to such a point where nothing more need be said.
The word bureaucracy, or bureaucrat, isn’t far behind.
There has to be a better way than this.
As is true with any complex relation my view of public and private or corporate bureaucracy is mixed. Certainly the industrial revolution accelerated the development of what we consider modern bureaucracies building on older bureaus that dealt with finance tax collecting, military conscription, etc. Industrialization and globalization requires handling more challenges. (As you sy “bureaucracy’s role in the lives of millions of government workers and billions of humans.”
In the 19th century the larger culture adapted to bureaucracy’s development with some ethical-professional standards. People used to talk more about a calling to service to make things work.
Good and bad, beneficial and destructive, the bureaucratic approach to corporate, governmental, academic and community organizations has made growth and stability possible in human society for quite a while. We need to make it work better and serve real needs.
Individuals use “bureaucracy” as an excuse to avoid personal responsibility and accountability for their own actions. I’m originally from Missouri, and I’d like to hear more along the lines of the mentality of U.S. President Harry S. Truman with “The buck stops here!”
The United States form of government is a bureaucracy, and is the oldest form of a management system used since 1776! How do you expect it to conform to thinking outside the box, when you throw in politics and religion? Give me one government official that will just say, “Yes”, and we could have a revolution providing first-class customer service!
It is almost as if bureaucracy is a necessary evil. Quite similar to a small company that is very successful; soon processes and layers of management are implemented to manage growth, which then seems to squeeze out new ideas and stifle innovation.
I’ve never liked the word “bureaucrat” for the reasons stated above and in the comments…but maybe it’s a word that is capable of being reclaimed.