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Bureaucratic Structures and its Implication of Employee Motivation

Explain why bureaucratic structures are often criticised for having a negative impact on employee motivation. Use your answer to identify the characteristics of such organisations, and use the motivation theory of either Maslow or Herzberg to support your arguments in regards to motivation.

According to Taormina and Gao (2013), Maslow's Law of Needs hierarchy is summarized as, workers move up the ladder as their level of needs are met. This case study discusses the different bureaucratic structures and its implication on employee motivation. Abraham Maslow’s ‘Law of Needs’ theory explains how every step of the hierarchy level can be implemented in the structure of an organization and its positive or negative influence on the employees.

Bureaucratic Structures and its Implication of Employee Motivation

Physiological Needs

According to Jeromee (2013), for human survival, water, air, food, sleep, and shelter are essential to meet their physiological needs. In an organization for the employees to work without being subjected to starvation, exhaustion, and dehydration, they would need clean water to drink and keep hydrated, fresh air to breathe, healthy foods from canteens or vendors to be energized, the break between shifts to release stress and adequate time for their leisure (Kantor and Streitfeld, 2015).

Safety Needs

As opined by Taormina and Gao, (2013), employees need to feel safe and sound in a workplace without the risk of getting injured or hurt; they can work without interruption, which leads to their emotional well-being in the working environment. According to the investigation undertaken by OSHA, workers at Amazon were subjected to workplace hazards including noise, fall, amputation and electrical hazards. Tucker, Ogunfowora and Ehr (2016) has cited that Amazon has not recorded 26 instances of injuries and illness related to work. 

Social Needs

As stated by Kaur (2013), it is known that man cannot live satisfactorily without social interaction, companionship, inclusion, and acceptance. Amazon's workplace is an old-fashioned model where they treat the employees as replaceable cogs. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said to have envisioned a new workplace which will be tough but fluid, where employees will stay for a short time, but employers will have high expectations from them (Landau, 2012).

Esteem Needs

As opined by Taormina and Gao (2013), in an organization, a person needs to be identified for his accomplishments and Maslow divides it as external and internal motivators. Internal motivators are the one's employees set for themselves as personal goals, like beating last month's sales figure or finishing a task before the deadline. Amazon tried its "Pay to Quit" retention method and the idea is to pay associates to quit. Jeff Bezos’ idea is that, if employees are not happy working then neither the employee nor the company will benefit from it (Harris, 2015).

Physiological Needs


According to Carland, Carland and Carland (2015), according to Maslow's law, those who have their entire physiological, social, safety and self-esteem needs are met and can recognize themselves in achieving their real potential with utmost justice and wisdom in their words, and speaking truth can move to a higher level of understanding and empathy for others (Guillén, Ferrero and Hoffman, 2015). At Amazon, employees are encouraged to tear each other's ideas in a meeting, and they expect their employees to respond to emails arriving past midnight or asking them to cite reasons for not answering. It is frequently used to sabotage others (Kantor and Streitfeld, 2015).

By the words of Rojas and Guardiola (2016), in any organization, workers expect from their job some basic safety needs such as basic security, protection, stability and freedom. The self-actualization, esteem and social needs fall in the higher-order needs while the safety needs and physiological is included in the lower-order needs (Houseman, 2015).

Maintenance Subsystems

As opined by Smith (2013), it includes the social involvement of the firm’s employees. In this group, activities are directly related to providing compensation and motivation to the workers, in turn empowering employees, creating favorable work conditions and fulfilling their needs. Maslow mentions about creating motivation in a workplace in ‘Law of Needs.' It falls under esteem needs.

Managerial Subsystems

As defined by Mouzelis (2013), in an organization, managerial subsystems guide the operations of other systems of the firm. Managerial operations include settling disputes, allocating resources, setting policies and goals and work towards facilitating the organization’s efficiency.  Workers are motivated when their problems are settled and a meaningful purpose is set in their life. It is categorized under esteem and safety needs.

Division of labor

As told by Durkheim (2014), Division of labor is part of mainly all organizations and is either vertical or horizontal. The vertical section has three levels – top, middle, and bottom. Labor is also divided into a group horizontally by categorizing departments, task groups, and assigning workers with suitable skills to respective groups.

Decision-making structures

As defined by Pettigrew (2014), it is the second most fundamental characteristic of an organization used to arrange authority. It varies in the degree of decentralization and centralization.

Centralized decision structures are also called “tall” firms because the necessary decisions are passed down from the higher level, passing through different channels until they arrive at the lowest level of the hierarchy (Sciarini, 2015). According to Maslow, this creates job insecurity. This falls into the safety needs of the lower level of the hierarchy (Yu, 2013).

Safety Needs

According to Jackson, Wood and Zboja (2013), in flat organizations, the decision making structures are decentralized only employing a few levels of hierarchy. In Maslow's needs theory, this can be grouped under social needs (El-Sayegh et al., 2016).

Organizational Structures

As opined by Hanks (2015), in a functionally structured organization, only those are selected who can achieve an effective specialization of labor, so that people with specific skills can have a definite career path in their particular department. For employees, this structure is easy to understand and therefore, they can identify themselves with the group and can feel the accomplishment when the department flourishes (Scott, 2013).

Leadership Grid       

In an organization, leadership style is identified by a tool called Leadership Grid (Carter, Ulrich and Goldsmith, 2012). The different leadership styles are:

Organization Man Management

A leader can adequately handle the performance of an organization by balancing the need of getting the work done and maintaining people’s morale at a satisfactory level. This can be included in esteem and social needs of the hierarchy level (Rice, 2013).

Impoverished Management

According to Nonaka et al. (2014), here, to sustain in the organization leaders do require minimum work. It is a part of safety needs of the hierarchy level.


Here leaders arrange the conditions by the use of power, control and authority so that the interference of human elements to the efficiency of the organization can be minimum. It can be included in the esteem needs of the hierarchy (Einarsen, Aasland and Skogstad, 2016).

Team Management

As opined by Goetsch and Davis (2014), a goal-centered approach is taken by the leaders to gain high-quantity and good-quality results through the group members’ broad involvement. Involvement includes participation, commitment, and conflict resolution. It can be incorporated in the social needs.

Country Club Management

Here, the leaders put emphasis to spread good feelings among the workers and staffs even if work production deteriorates. It can be categorized into social needs in the higher order of hierarchy level (Whyte, 2013).

Leader-Subordinate relationship

As defined by Robert, Dunne and Iun (2015), employee job satisfaction can be the result of both leader positive-reinforcement and employee-centered behavior or leader consideration. Lower job satisfaction of employees can be the outcome of production-centered leadership or high initiating structure. It is part of the safety needs.


In an organization, the motivation factors of employees can be due to various reasons and this case study discusses them. Different subsystems in a body tell about the operation of a firm and that the workplace environment influences employees to a varying degree. The horizontal method is preferable for the employees as it considered humanistic and they can directly report to their bosses or the respective authorities. Functional organizational structure tells how specific people are employed so that they can follow their specialization to make a career in their department which aligns with the organizational goals.

Social Needs


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