Organisational Theories Via a Movie : Yes Man

I was at the cinema watching “Yes Man”, an American comedy, starring Jim Carrey. I found it hard to concentrate at the very end as three old, serious-looking men were deep in discussion. I was just about to ask them to be quiet when I realised that they were discussing the representation of bureaucracy portrayed in “Yes Man”. It is through the discussion of these three men : Max Weber a German sociologist and economist , Robert Merton an American economist and Michel Crozier a French sociologist that this essay will examine the characteristics of bureaucracy found in the movie “Yes Man”.

Since the seventies new organisational theories based on motivation and participation have emerged. However, a more traditional organisational system remains from the past : the bureaucracy system. This essay documents a hypothetical interaction between Weber, Merton and Crozier. Weber as the founder of the theory of bureaucracy and both Merton and Crozier as two of its renowned critics. This essay will explore the representation of bureaucracy through “Yes Man” and the life of the main character, Carl Dan.

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Overall this essay will show the different points of view of Weber, Merton and Crozier about bureaucracy by pointing out and discussing scenes from the movie “Yes Man”. Weber, Merton and Crozier started their conversation about Carl’s depressed state. Indeed, Carl is melancholic and unhappy. He dislikes his job, he does not want to do anything or to go out with his friends, and would rather spend every night watching horror movies on his own. Robert Merton opened the conversation : “I believe that it is the repercussion of repetitive tasks that make this poor Carl depressed”.

In fact, Carl works in a Bank and his task is to accept or deny loans according to very strict, predetermined criteria. He does not have to take any personal initiative or have any innovation and he must always do things according to the book (Merton, R, 1957). Merton continued by adding : “I have noticed more than being not motivated that Carl has a tendency of being selfish as well (Merton, R, 1957). Carl does not care about anyone other than himself. He even missed his best friends engagement party which is a real pity”.

Carl lives as a recluse and the movie convinces the spectators that he did not used to act like that before finding his boring and repetitive job. Mr Crozier was following Merton’s point of view without taking part of the conversation. Again, Merton spoke : “As far as I am concerned, I believe that Carl acts selfishly and lacks motivation because of the rigid rules that a system of bureaucracy requires. He is stuck by those strict regulations and threatened by both routine and conformism. ” (Merton, R, 1957) Finally, Mr Weber replied with a self-assured voice. The written rules and detailed description of each task and action are one of the six reasons, that allow the efficiency of my organisational theory” (Johnston, K, B, August 17, 2010). This sentence was an electric shock for Crozier who asked with a very strong French accent: “I would be very interested to hear your other reasons why your organisational theory is, according to you, an efficient organisational system Mr Weber, Sir. ” At this point of the conversation Merton’s point of view and fears about the bureaucracy system were understood.

Furthermore, through Weber’s conversation we saw that written rules help the efficiency of the bureaucracy system. This essay will now relate the continuation of the conversation. Weber after a short minute of reflection exclaimed : “Dear Mr Crozier, I actually do believe that the bureaucracy system has the best technical efficiency out of all of the other theories. The phenomenon of Bureaucracy is irreversible because it is faster, more precise and more objective. It also allows problems, when they occur, to be solved without conflict. ” (Kilcullen, J, n. d. ).

Crozier looked surprised and asked Weber : “How can problems be solved without conflict ? It is impossible. The more people there are in an organisation, the more problems will arise. This just asks for conflict”. Weber smiled wryly and responded: “In “Yes Man”, as Merton said, Carl does not have to take any initiative. Indeed, he is following the written rules of his organisation and as you must have noticed Carl too, is following what his boss instructs him to do. Furthermore even Carl’s boss follows his own boss without even thinking or asking any questions.

We can see here three more traits of the reason why bureaucracy is the most efficient organisational system (Johnston, K, B, August 17, 2010). The first trait is the strict definition of the authority of each person. Without explaining to you my theory about the three types of authority, it will suffice for the conversation to say that it is a legal authority based on norms and impersonal procedures that bureaucracy exert. (Kilcullen, J, n. d. ) . Employees like Carl subject themselves to a dominant authority.

The other aspects of the bureaucracy’s efficiency showed in this example is the hierarchic structure that comes from this legal authority. Finally, the last features that support the efficiency of bureaucracy showed in this example is the rejection of personal preferences. As a matter of fact, employees do not do anything that relate to their preferences, they only follow written rules or that which is said by their boss. ” (Kilcullen, J, n. d. ) Merton replied, heatedly: “ Bureaucrats are hiding behind those rigid and strict directives and thus they forget the objective of their jobs. (Merton, R, 1957).

Carl, for instance denies a man who was begging with his wife and child for a loan without even feeling any pity. It is your theory, Mr Weber, that influences this kind of depersonalised behaviour. Employees, under bureaucracy, forget how to think and become mechanical. (Merton, R, 1957)” It was obvious that Weber was loosing his patience when he added : “Congratulations Merton, you have just touched on another important point that supports the efficiency of my theory. I would not have used the word “mechanical” as a metaphor out of respect but indeed, employees know very well how to perform their tasks efficiently. (Kilcullen, J, n. d. ) At this point of the discussion that this essay is documenting, Max Weber has explained the five features of his theory that were evident in “Yes Man” that make bureaucracy the most efficient organisational system. In summary, written rules, strict definition of the authority of each person, a strict hierarchic structure, the rejection of personal preferences and the fact that workers know the best way to perform their jobs are the five traits explained by Weber. Despite their different opinions, Weber, Merton and Crozier remain calm and civilised.

Finally, Michel Crozier began to speak: “I cannot disagree with Merton. As he said, bureaucracy evokes a routine and the frustration of employees. To this I would add bureaucracy complicates procedures. I sympathise with Weber the fact that bureaucracy is the rationalisation of collective activities (Crozier, M, 1964). Crozier was right about the very complicated procedure that bureaucracy involves. As we saw in “Yes Man” it is not simply a complication of procedures for customers but also a complication of procedures for employees. Carl was struggling to get anything such as a promotion.

He is like a drop of water in the ocean, he is a part of his organisation without being able to do anything. However, as everybody must follow complicated procedures people are treated equally and bureaucracy does not have any ethical problems. ” (Du Gay, P, 2005) Merton and Weber were both satisfied by Crozier’s speech, until Crozier added : “I will go further than you Weber, by saying that the more hierarchy and bureaucracy are developed into an organisation, the more efficient it becomes. However, the more the hierarchy prevails, the more the organisation suffers.

Indeed, because of this hierarchy, communication between services and departments within an organisation is harder and can lead to misunderstandings. This leads to the decisions that are made being maladapted to the situation and therefore decreases the efficiency of the organisation”. (Crozier, M, 1964) Crozier saw in Weber and Merton’s eyes that they were lost and continued giving examples from “Yes Man” : “When Carl was called by the head director of his bank, his boss told him that the purpose of the meeting was that he was going to be fired.

Carl believed him and was not surprised. However, it was Carl who got promoted and his boss who got fired. This is a classic example of misunderstanding between directors and employees due to strict hierarchic structure. These misunderstandings lead to a more centralised power that leads to the creation of more strict rules and procedures set up by the head of a bureaucratic organisation. An attempt to improve increases the centralisation of decisions and decreases the efficiency of an organisation. (Crozier, M, 1964) By relating the conversation this part of this essay showed Crozier’s point of view. By relating these gentlemen’s conversation about the movie “Yes Man” this essay has explored the representation of organisational life portrayed in the movie. This essay showed Max Weber’s theory and explained the criticisms of bureaucracy by Robert Merton and Michel Crozier. Through different scenes extracted from “Yes Man”, this essay has given the five features of bureaucracy found in the movie that for Weber allow an unrivalled efficiency with any other organisational theories.

Merton and Crozier’s criticisms of Weber’s theory were explained and illustrated via different sequences of the movie “Yes Man”. This essay shows that Merton and Crozier, even if they are notorious for their criticisms of Weber’s theory, still found some good features such as the efficiency of the bureaucracy. Bureaucracy still remains in many organisations such as governments and universities as it the most efficient organisational theory. However, as this essay illustrated, the principal criticism of bureaucracy cannot be avoided.

Even if this theory allows maximum efficiency, I believe that it is the evolution of the mind-set of the people of the twenty first century that will reduce the number of bureaucracy systems that we have at present. Indeed, with the development of freedom and liberty that people are acquiring, the essence of bureaucracy will be questioned and evolution will force it to become out dated. References Crozier, M. (1964). The bureaucracy phenomenon. Chicago : University of chicago Press. Du Gay, P. (2005). The values of bureaucracy. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press. Freund, J. (1968). The sociology of Max Weber.

London, Penguin Press. Johnston, K, B. (August 17, 2010). Bureaucratie Form According to Max Weber — His Six Major Principles. In busting bureaucracy. Retrieved August 9, 2010, from http://www. bustingbureaucracy. com/excerpts/weber. htm. Kilcullen, J (n. d). Max Weber: On Bureaucracy. Retrieved from POL264 Modern Political Theory, Macquarie University, from http://www. humanities. mq. edu. au/Ockham/y64109. html Merton, R, (1957). Bureaucracy Structure and personality. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. (pp. 195-206), Retrieved from http://www. sociosite. net/topics/texts/merton_bureaucratic_structure. php.



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