Who makes bureaucracy bad, the workers or the leadership?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a matter of opinion.  There is no objective way to tell who is at fault if a bureaucratic agency is “bad.”  I will give a few arguments on this topic and let you decide which you think is most persuasive.

On the one hand, we can say that it is the workers that make a bureaucracy bad.  A bureaucracy typically becomes bad when it falls in love with its rules and follows them without regard to logic.  A bad bureaucracy does not show any concern for the needs of its clients.  We can blame this on the workers because they are the ones who actually treat clients in a given way.  Thus, they are ultimately responsible for their actions.

On the other hand, we can say that it is the bosses that make a bureaucracy bad.  The bosses set (or should set) the expectations for how clients will be treated and how business will be conducted.  If the bureaucracy goes bad, it is because they bosses have taught the workers the wrong things or given them the wrong incentives.  Either way, it is the bosses’ responsibility when things go badly.

A third option that is possible is that it is neither the workers fault nor the bosses fault.  In this view, bureaucracies simply tend to go “bad” by their very nature.  They have to operate on impersonal, objective rules in order to function properly.  This necessarily lends itself to bad customer service and poor function.  Therefore, bureaucracies are likely to go bad simply because it is in their nature to do so.

Which of these arguments makes the most sense to you?

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