19 examples of bureaucracy (2023) (2023)

19 examples of bureaucracy (2023) (1)

Bureaucracy is a system of government in which power is divided between different departments and officials.

In theory, the bureaucracy is designed to make government more efficient by dividing up its work so that each department can specialize in a particular area. In practice, bureaucracy often leads to delays and bureaucracy as decisions have to be taken by a large number of officials.

A well-known example of bureaucracy is the United States federal government, which has dozens of different departments and agencies, each with its own area of ​​responsibility.

Another example of a bureaucratic organization is the United Nations, which has a complex structure with many different bodies and committees.

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Examples of bureaucracy in everyday life

1. Universities

Universities are large institutions that become extremely bureaucratic as they grow.

Academics often complain about time being spent on administrative and compliance tasks rather than teaching (Forbes notes thatup to 15%of an academic day is spent on administration).

Similarly, universities spend inordinate amounts of money on marketing rather than tuition to get "bums in the seats."

The Forbes article cited above states that for every 5 academic staff there are 2 administrative staff and administration accounts for 24% of a university's total spending. This bloated administration is a result ofbureaucratic leadership.

2. The police

Law enforcement officers often have to deal with complex rules and regulations, which can lead to confusion and frustration. This is especially true when it comes to the use of force.

For example, the police in the UK mustFill out the 10-page formevery time they use violence against a member of the public.

However, police forces require bureaucracy to implement controls and countermeasures that can prevent police excesses. Given that the police are the only civilian organization authorized to use violence in the course of their work, and given the extraordinary power they wield, comprehensive controls and countermeasures are required.

3. Get a driver's license

Obtaining a driver's license is an example of bureaucracy as there is a clear process that must be followed in order to obtain the driver's license. You can't just walk in and ask for the license. You must obtain approval from various pieces of bureaucracy, including a driving examiner and the payments department. This often takes a lot of time and requires paperwork.

4. Receipt of a Health Insurance Payment

If you have health insurance, you're probably familiar with the bureaucracy. To get your insurance company to pay something, you often need to obtain pre-approval or go through a complicated claims process. This can be very frustrating, especially when you are sick or in pain. Many health insurance companies advertise the speed with which their claims processing works because they know how frustrating customers are when reporting claims.

That is aExample of capitalist bureaucracyless efficient than the socialist bureaucracy.

5. Applying for a passport

Another example of bureaucracy is when applying for a passport. You have to fill out forms, submit them to the correct department, and then wait for your application to be processed. You may also be required to submit a number of documents to prove you are who you say you are. This process can take weeks or even months, so it's important to plan ahead if you need a passport.

6. Start a business

There are a number of rules and regulations that you need to be aware of when starting a business. They often need to obtain approval from several different government agencies, e.g. such as the Department of Labor (for hiring people in accordance with the law) and the Department of Commerce (to ensure your products comply with the law). This process can be very bureaucratic and it can take a long time to get everything in order. It can also take a lot of money, which is a barrier to entry for entrepreneurs.

7. Buy a house

Buying a home is another process that can be slowed down by bureaucracy. In order to buy a home, you need to get approval from the bank, which has to follow a set of rules set by the government. You will need to submit a lot of paperwork such as B. Proof of income and ID cards. Similarly, the local government may require you to do bureaucracy such as B. Obtaining building permits before you can start construction.

8. Der Postdienst

The postal service is a complex system with many different levels, each with their own set of rules and regulations. This often causes delays in mail delivery, as letters have to pass through multiple processing centers, where at every step along the way there are requirements that limit whether the mail gets to you. There may be taxes and border duties that you must pay, as well as checks by the post office to make sure it's compliant on weight and what's allowed to ship (vs. what's not!).

9. Local Government

Local government is a great example of bureaucracy in action. To get something done, e.g. For example, getting a parking permit or building a new house requires you to go through various processes and fill out paperwork that is evaluated by the local government.

For example, to build a new shed on your property, the local government must conduct assessments, e.g. B. Checking if it has adequate drainage, quality of construction materials, electrical compliance and even if it is built on sensitive homeland.

This can be very frustrating and it often takes a long time to get the necessary approvals. The local government is also responsible for enforcing rules and regulations regarding zoning, parking, loitering, etc.

10. The tax authority (in the US it is the IRS)

The IRS is a classic example of bureaucracy. There are many different regulations that must be followed in order for the IRS to process your tax return. In addition, it has controls and balances carried out by different departments such as: B. Tax audits for companies and individuals.

For many people, this bureaucracy is seen as a tremendous waste of money - just so the government can collect money from you that they end up wasting on other bureaucratic endeavors. For others, it is a necessary evil to ensure that society functions smoothly, roads are built and schools run.

11. The military

Military officials are among the largest bureaucracies in the world. China's People's Liberation Army is the second largest bureaucracy in the world after the United States government. It has 2.3 million employees.

A military is a great example of a bureaucracy because it is so hierarchical, regulated, and formalized in its structure. For example, in the US military, there are different ranks (enlisted, officers, and generals), each with their own rules and regulations. Promotions within the military are often based on a system of seniority and tenure rather than merit. This can often lead to stagnation and a lack of innovation.

12. The Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is a United States federal agency that administers social security programs such as retirement, disability, and survivor benefits.

It's a great example of bureaucracy because it's so big and has a lot of different rules and regulations that need to be followed.

For example, to receive disability benefits from the SSA, you must provide documentation such as proof of disability, your work history, and medical records. The SSA also has a very strict approval process, which often results in long waits for benefits.

13. FEMA

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a US government agency that provides emergency management and disaster relief services.

To get help from FEMA after a natural disaster, you must go through steps such as: B. Registering for help and providing documentation. FEMA also has a very strict permitting process, which often results in long waits for help.

14. The NHS

The National Health Service (NHS) is a publicly funded healthcare system in the United Kingdom. It employs over 1.5 million people, making it one of the largest employers in the world.

While the NHS is free at the time of delivery, that doesn't mean it isn't a bureaucratic beast. For example, to be treated by the NHS you must have a valid social security number and be registered with a GP. The NHS also has a very strict approval process for surgeries, which often results in long waits for treatment.

15. Private health insurance

Although public health systems like the NHS are bureaucratic, private health insurers are no better.

In fact, many advocates of government-funded health care argue that it is less bureaucratic. When all areguaranteedhealth care, then several parts of the private insurance bureaucracy would become redundant. These include:

  • Advertising and Marketing Departments –If everyone is covered by the government, there is no need for advertising departments and budgets.
  • proficiency tests –Insurers do not need to verify the eligibility of every claim.

16. Motor Insurance

Similarly, with car insurance, there is a lot of bureaucratic hassle when you make a claim.

Getting car insurance is usually relatively easy. You will need to show your driver's license, the make and model of your car and your address. You also need a valid driver's license.

But when you get into a car accident, the insurance company often has to conduct an investigation. This may include sending an insurance adjuster to assess the damage to both cars and interviewing witnesses. The process of filing a claim can be very lengthy and frustrating.

17. The United Nations

The United Nations is an international organization established in 1945 after World War II. It consists of member states, which are countries that have agreed to the charter of the organization. The main purpose of the UN is to maintain international peace and security, but it also has a number of other goals, including promoting human rights, providing humanitarian assistance and supporting sustainable development.

The UN can be viewed as a bureaucracy as it has a complex structure with many different departments and rules that need to be followed. The UN departments include the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Secretariat.

Typically for a bureaucracy, running the UN is very expensive. His annual budget isover $3.12 billionand has over 40,000 employees.

18. Human Resources Departments

HR departments are an integral part of any large organization and are often viewed as a bureaucratic nightmare.

Human resources departments are responsible for hiring and firing employees, administering benefits and payroll, and ensuring that employees follow company policies. You must also deal with employee grievances and disciplinary procedures.

All of this can lead to a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy. HR departments are slow to make decisions and often have strict policies that must be followed. As a result, they can be frustrating to deal with.

19. Large companies and corporations

Large companies and corporations often turn to bureaucracy to control and manage the extensive workloads and moving parts associated with their operations.

However, this can lead to delays in decision-making and frustration for employees and customers.

In fact, smaller companies often have the advantage of agility: with less bureaucracy, they can make decisions faster, expand into new markets, and undercut their larger, more bloated competitors.

Characteristics of a bureaucracy

AccordinglyWeber's bureaucratic theory, bureaucracy is characterized by a number of characteristics, including:

-A hierarchical structure:There is a clear chain of command and each hierarchy level has a specific area of ​​responsibility.

- division of labor:The work is distributed among different departments and officials, so each person has a specific area of ​​expertise.

- Written rules and regulations:There are clear rules and procedures that must be followed.

-formalized decision-making:Decisions are made according to established procedures and there is little room for personal discretion.

advantages of bureaucracy

The main benefit of bureaucracy is that it allows large organizations to function despite their complexity and size. With division of labor and clear rules, bureaucracies can handle a lot of work with a minimum of confusion.

Another advantage of bureaucracy is that it provides stability. Because decision-making is formalized and there is a clear chain of command, it is difficult for one person to make sudden, drastic changes.

This can be a good thing because it prevents one person from messing things up, but it's also bad because it prevents or slows down people from initiating changes that may be needed.

Disadvantages of Bureaucracy

The main disadvantage of bureaucracy is that it can be very slow and inflexible. Because there are so many levels of hierarchy and so many rules and regulations, it can take a long time to get something done.

Another downside of bureaucracy is that it can lead to frustration and stagnation. By putting rules before people, bureaucracies can stifle creativity and innovation.

After all, bureaucracy can be expensive. The division of labor creates a large number of specialized personnel, which can lead to high overhead costs.


Bureaucracy is not without its drawbacks, but it does offer some advantages worth considering. It is important to remember that bureaucracy is not perfect and there are always compromises to be made. Common examples of bureaucracy include government agencies, large corporations, and the military. Each of these organizations has a hierarchical structure, division of labor, written rules and regulations, and formalized decision-making. Additionally, each of these organizations can be expensive to operate due to the need for specialized staff.

Chris Drew (PhD)

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dr Chris Drew is the founder of The Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in Education and has published over 20 articles in professional journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.


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