Bureaucracy | Characteristics & Importance

According to Victor Thomson, bureaucracy is defined as a highly elaborated hierarchy of authority super imposed by a highly elaborated division of labour. Apan (1982) described bureaucracy as the organization of large number of people for work, according to set rules in graded positions in super and subordinate responsibilities.


  • There exist a well defined hierarchy of authority and division of labour.
  • There exists a system of procedure for dealing with work situation.
  • Recruitment and promotion are based on technical competence and merit.
  • All operations are governed by consistent system of abstract rules.
  • Officials are subject to strict and systematic discipline on the conduct of official duties.


  • Accountability:

Since government and all public services are opened to public criticism, officials are constantly conscious of public accountability and are therefore anxious not to make mistake that will attract public criticism. Officials therefore take pains to examine issues from all possible points of view.

  • Size:

Large organization tends to be more bureaucratic in nature as a result of division of labour.

  • Organization:

In an organization the chain of command is clearly defined, everyone knows where he fit, who is above and who is below, this help to ensure efficiency in the discharge of functions.

  • Specialization:

Both hierarchy and specialization are necessary for efficient discharge of complex function. This is because specialization tends to restrict and narrow individuals to particular functions.

  • Complexity:

The complexity of modern state and the magnitude of service rendered by public officials to the citizens make it necessary to have experts in administration, which can formulate, execute and enforce rules and regulation.

This could be achieved through division of labour, specialization, organization and proper planning.


  • Bureaucracy gives organization a formal structure of their description
  • It states in clear terms the pattern of relationship, so people can easily find accommodation to interact and work together irrespective of their possible hostile personal relationship outside the organization.
  • It introduces the idea of unity of command which streamlines orderliness.
  • It is democratic, it does not care who is who, hence it gives everybody fair chance and treatment.


In the pursuit of reputation for accuracy and impartiality, forms are devised, circulars are issued and papers of all description are multiplied in the final analysis, they are codified into rules and regulation.

Since individuals operating them are bound by them, it results to rigidity.

This makes discharge of functions very cumbersome and slows down action. In this case, some members of the public often see it as red tape which is usually synonymous with bureaucracy.

Also, as an organization increases in size it becomes more bureaucratic, efficiency begins to decline and concerned for human element disappears and becomes irrelevant. In other words it terms to make people callous.


  • Involvement of more than one person in decision making.
  • Division of responsibility for the same job.
  • Placing bureaucrats under supervision and guidance of parliament, so as to ensure accountability to the people.
  • Establishment of public complaint commission/ombudsman.

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