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Bureaucracy is an organizational structure characterized by regularized procedure, division of responsibility, hierarchy, and impersonal relationships. The term was first used by Max Weber.

The term can be used to describe either governmental or nongovernmental organizations.

A hypothetical bureaucracy would consist of many levels of management which require many signature approvals to make any decision. A second characteristic of many bureaucracies, especially government ones, is extreme difficulty in firing or laying off employees.

In modern usage, bureaucracy is equated with inefficiency, laziness, and waste. It is oftentimes characterized in the popular imagination as existing solely for itself and only creates things which end up in enlarging the size of the bureaucracy. It is thus generally used as a negative word. However, Weber originally described the concept in more positive terms, considering it to be a more rational form of organization those that precede it, which he termed as charasmatic and traditional.