Daily Sociology Diary: Not My Job: Bureaucracy Management

Daily Sociology Diary: Not My Job: Bureaucracy Management
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Karen Sternheimer

I recently received an email from a colleague a copy of the letter. It was for another colleague and someone in our dean’s office and was related to a student who was upset about a requirement they had to meet. The sender was outraged that, based on the information the student shared, the lesson they attended would not meet the requirements of a particular university.

This email the letter was problematic on several levels that allow us to understand the concept of bureaucracy:

  1. A colleague who has received an email a letter completely unrelated to such decisions (and so do I);
  2. El. the colleague who wrote the letter does not know the details of why a particular class would not meet the requirement, nor is it their duty to make such decisions.
  3. A person working in the dean’s office is not obliged to explain such a policy to teachers;
  4. The student was copied in an email in which all participants were addressed only by name, thus obscuring their institutional roles and discussing “behind-the-scenes” information among colleagues with the student;
  5. El. the letter was very emotional and not based on facts or facts, so some emotional responses were included in the exchange;
  6. El. the letter shared potentially private information with people who did not need to know it, possibly in violation of the federal education privacy law.

El. the chain of letters began with an angry tone, which was met with anger from the dean’s office and then from the student’s anger. This led to calls from our department and the consulting office, which in turn had another discussion with the dean’s office as well as another meeting with the student.

These interactions were stressful and time consuming, so they could be avoided. At least six workers were involved in the incident, of which only three were to be.

This event made me think about Max Weber’s concept of bureaucracy. Weber wrote in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as organizations grew and became more complex. One of the key principles of bureaucracy is a clear division of labor based on specific skills and preparation.

It makes sense: in the context of a university, there are many different tasks that would be huge if not divided. Just to name a few involved here: a lecturer who leads the lessons, an advisor to help the student navigate the requirements of the university, deans who respond to petitions when a student seeks an exception to a university rule. Other special roles that students may encounter are admissions, financial aid, counseling, and academic assistance.

Everything can go wrong when students turn to the wrong department for help, and this happens quite often. It can be difficult for them to take on different roles – even my colleague, who has been working at the university for decades, couldn’t understand that – and may be more disappointed than they started. That is exactly what happened in the above-mentioned exchange.

I am often asked to help students register for lessons (not my job, and I don’t even have access to the registration system to help). I occasionally hear information that is better shared with a mental health professional, or someone who inquires about admission or has been denied access to me for help.

As in the case above, my colleagues regularly send students to the wrong people – I had a colleague who asked for my help when a student said he had committed suicide, an emergency that I’m not ready to deal with, but our student services. office is. I will receive an email emails about all the above issues from people who should know better. Because their work is so specialized — they usually simply lead classes and do research — they are often unaware of the broader organizational structure of the university. They usually don’t need to know about it.

Because of this experience, people may think that bureaucracy is too complicated and difficult to understand. Weber considered the bureaucracy rational and did not intend it to be a derogatory term, as it has become today. He noted that bureaucracy can have problems such as inflexibility, or tasks can be so specialized that it becomes tedious.

Weber noted that bureaucracies have written rules and clear hierarchies, just like we do at our university. Instead of seeing it as a problem, this should free up employees to perform specialized tasks that we have trained to perform. We can rely on politics and remind others that doing our job properly means following written rules.

Because the bureaucracy is hierarchical, we are accountable to those who overtake us, and we cannot ignore their decisions. This is one of the most important aspects of bureaucracy. As with the exchange email described above. in the case of mail, where the political decision is taken by those in office, there is no point in arguing on the matter with a lower-ranking person. I don’t like to argue and I really like when I can say that difficult decisions are not my job.

How else can we apply Weber’s ideas about bureaucracy in real life?

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