The Management Theory of Max Weber

Business.com / Managing / Last Modified: February 12, 2018
Photo credit: Biography.com

While Weber's theory prioritizes efficiency, it isn't necessarily the best practice for leaders to implement.

Max Weber was unlike most workplace leaders today. His theory of management, also called the bureaucratic theory, stressed strict rules and a firm distribution of power. He would've scolded today's managers, most of whom are open to new ideas and flexible work arrangements, for their leadership style.

"Precision, speed, unambiguity, knowledge of files, continuity, discretion, unity, strict subordination, reduction of friction and of material, and personal costs – these are raised to the optimum point in the strictly bureaucratic administration," said Weber.

While his theory prioritizes efficiency, it isn't necessarily the best practice for leaders to implement. Many of Weber's beliefs discourage creativity and collaboration in the workplace, and oppose flexibility and risk. Here are some key elements of the Max Weber management theory.

Clearly defined job roles

Weber believed that responsibilities should be delegated based on skill and ability. There should be no flexible roles. Rather, employees should be aware of their position's responsibilities and stick to them. Straying outside of their designated roles will disrupt the hierarchy of authority. Therefore, collaboration, creative thinking and idea pitching are also strongly discouraged.

Hierarchy encourages the distribution of power among workers. Employees ranked highest have the most power, while employees ranked lowest must report to those above them. Workers should respect their supervisors and be certain not to overstep any boundaries.

Meticulous record-keeping

According to Weber, leaders should take notes on every position, occurrence or concern that involves the company. That way, they can refer to it later and handle any issues accordingly. For instance, managers should record every responsibility of every role in the company so there are no misunderstandings; and if an employee calls out sick or shows up late to a shift, their manager should keep tabs to ensure there are no negative patterns.

Additionally, workers should keep track of their hours and record their daily assignments and progress. Managers have the right to know how their employees are using (or abusing) their time.

Hiring based solely on specific qualifications

Weber called for only the most ideal candidates with the exact skill set required for the position to ensure the best results. There should be no nepotism or exceptions to these high standards. If a person is not perfectly qualified, they are not a fit.

Just because a candidate is easy to get along with or works well with others doesn't mean they're right for the job. The hiring decision should be based solely on their experience and expertise.

Work-appropriate relationships only

Weber did not condone any type of personal relationship in the workplace. He supported the notion that all work relationships are branded by rules and regulations. There should be no small talk, collaboration or sharing of ideas. Work is work – not a social outing.

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