What are the features of bureaucracy in business?

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A bureaucracy in business has a number of features.  The most important of these include:

They are hierarchical.  In a business that has a bureaucracy, there are clear differences in power and authority.  A manager at a McDonald’s gets to tell all of the cooks what to do.  They do not have the power to tell the manager what to do.  The rules of the bureaucracy define who is superior to whom in the organization.

They have a clear division of labor.  One distinctive feature of a bureaucracy is that it has work rules.  It has these rules to define who does what job and to make sure that people do not do jobs that do not “belong” to them. 

It has strict rules and procedures.  There is no room in a bureaucratic organization for freelancing or deciding how to do a particular job.

Of course, a business can be more bureaucratic or less bureaucratic.  McDonald’s is a very bureaucratic business with clear rules that govern essentially every action a worker takes.  By contrast, a teacher works in a less bureaucratic business.  There is a principal who has authority and there are rules, but there are not such detailed rules and procedures telling them (for example) exactly how they will teach their class.  So, while all bureaucracies have certain features, the features are not present to the same degree in all businesses.

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