Corporate Life: The Depersonalization of Work and the Origins of Bureaucracy

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It is important that leaders of organizations are able to prioritize and align areas that are important

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A taste for depersonalizing, simplifying, and structuring organizations took off and landed in organizational life with concepts like chain of command (Henri Fayol, 1841-1925) and bureaucracy (Max Weber, 1864-1920) with Frederick Taylor. Weber’s case is particularly interesting because he was the first to introduce a word that still haunts us today: “bureaucracy.” For Weber, structure is essential and organizations should have a clear organizational structure with procedures, regulations and division of labor, among other things. Weber believed that in a bureaucratic organization there is a specialization of tasks: everyone knows what to do and what is expected of him, and there is a hierarchy that must be respected. Seniors are welcome as a boss is welcome. Weber also explains that in a bureaucratic organization there is a formal selection process where people choose technical skills. Relationships in these bureaucracies are impersonal. Nothing binding and very emotional. Test batteries that companies take seem to know how smart a person is. Over time, aptitude and personality tests such as the MBTI and Benziger are added, which tell us whether we are extroverted or introverted; If we are planners or lazy; If we think with the left or right brain, it’s as if the brain can be sliced ​​like a pizza. Why so many tests, if in the end many companies employ people without precedent?

Weberian bureaucracy accompanied us and still accompanies us in many companies and public administrations, where a hierarchical system destroys people’s lives. The inertia produced by bureaucratic organizations is enormous, which is a consequence of their nature. These leviathans of regulations and obstacles have done nothing but continue to depersonalize our work. What is imposed in every organization is structure. The complexity of the business required a certain order. Structure types have changed a lot over time, and today we’re stuck with a collage of formats that don’t necessarily help us work better.

The first known organizational structure is the Erie Railroad (New York) railroad company, which was implemented by its general manager in 1855, Daniel McCallum. The structure is more like a tree, with general management at the base and, in the branches, the company’s operations.

From that moment on, structures have been established in our lives, be they functional, matrix, division or some kind of monster, to make our lives more complicated. Trains were to what the Internet was to the technological revolution: there were no people ready to manage an industry with explosive growth. This is how a new caste of employees and different organizational structures emerge.

The organization was seen as a machine where everything fits everything. Organizational management is the process of planning, organizing, directing, coordinating and controlling. This organization is fundamentally efficient, everything works like clockwork and production is standardized. These are structures that leave little room for creativity and where many would happily replace humans with robots.

The influence of bureaucracy on people’s personality was also studied. The emergence of the bureaucratic personality or “bureaucrat” is, in fact, the most significant threat to efficiency. Attention is shifted from organizational goals to trivial and insignificant details, focusing on control systems: rules become ends in themselves instead of means to an end and create constant obstacles in decision-making. Rules become rituals, regardless of whether these rules are logical or not. Something like comedian Antonio Gasala’s character of a civil servant who is a drag on everyone’s back!

In this way the bureaucrat loses sight of the important needs of the subjects and the organization. They are the people that everyone hates and that no one hopes to become. But be careful, the word bureaucrat is not remotely just for public administration. Let’s think about the old (and not so many) fields of personnel, serial salaries, where the most important thing was the process, rather than cooperation with the development of the person. These managers loved Excel spreadsheets and people got in the way. Some, a few, continue to roam like immortal cockroaches. Service areas such as systems are another example. Of course, not all, but some believe that they are the center of the business and, exactly, serve no one. Endless virtual queues to fix a computer or technology problem and no one is interested in understanding the business being affected by said failures. They don’t know their priorities and they all fall into the same bag.

It is important that leaders of organizations are able to prioritize and align areas that are important. The pandemic brought a generational change to many companies and took away many management committees, ineffective watchdogs who only put spokes in the wheel of progress. That’s why CEOs must have a clear agenda for mobilizing the organization, getting rid of red tape and driving company agility, which are critical organizational capabilities for the uncertain and complex future we live in.

Source: La Nacion

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