Dysfunctional Aspects of Organization

26/04/2020 1 By indiafreenotes

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.

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 foregoing discussion is based on Max Weber’s description of an ideal (normative) pattern of organization. It is difficult to distinguish precisely how the functioning of organization differs from the ideal. It can nevertheless be said that all organizations have some or all of these features and the difference between one organization and the other is one of degree alone.

Functional Aspects 

Some of the principal, prescriptive, normative functions that bureaucracies serve have positive significant to organizations. Whether and to what extent these positive features really obtain in an organization depends on actual practice which often falls short of expectations. Subject to this limitation the following can be considered as the functional aspects of an ‘ideal’ bureaucracy:

  1. Specialization
  2. Structure
  3. Preitabiliy and Stability
  4. Rationality
  5. Democracy