Most of us have worked in a company that is, to put it bluntly, full of shit. For those who have endured a number of these environments over the years, the ability to detect it is almost a sixth sense. But now there’s a useful framework for quantifying office bullshit—one to help you evaluate the types you’re dealing with so you’re better equipped to decide whether to stay or GTFO.
Detecting office bullshit has always been more art than science. But thanks to a study that was recently published in the journal Psychological Reports, there’s now, in fact, a quantifiable scale that can measure whether the bullshit being produced in your office needs a shovel or a bulldozer.
This new way of measuring office bullshit, which they define as “individuals within an organization making statements with no regard for the truth,” is appropriately named the Organizational Bullshit Perception Scale. (Sounds like the authors aren’t full of bullshit themselves, which is always a promising sign.)
Office bullshit has been found to be composed of three separate factors: “regard for truth,” “the boss,” and “meaningless language.” The first factor, “regard for truth,” is about the willingness of management to tolerate communication that shows a disregard for facts. The second factor, “the boss,” is about the willingness of higher-ups to tolerate this bullshit, while the third factor, “meaningless language,” is about the prevalence of corporate jargon.
As study author Caitlin Ferreira, a lecturer in marketing at the Luleå University of Technology, explained to PsyPost:
Together with my co-authors, we identified three key underlying dimensions of workplace BS. The first, regard for truth, speaks to the extent to which the corporate culture places an importance on evidence and facts in decision-making. The second dimension, the boss, speaks to the perpetuation of workplace BS by hierarchical structures within an organization – suggesting that superiors may be key role-players in the dissemination of BS. The final dimension, BS language, highlights some of the language typically used by those perpetuating workplace BS. This is typically exclusionary language, such as acronyms and jargon, that would often cause individuals to doubt their own understanding and otherwise prevent others from meaningfully contributing to a conversation or voicing their concerns.
To test out the Organizational Bullshit Perception Scale, the authors came with up factors to measure these three categories, then tested it on two separate samples of employees, drawn from various industries. Although still in its early stages, the scale shows promise in being able to quantify not only bullshit, but also the ability of employees to recognize the situation for what it actually is.
Maybe recognizing a company’s bullshit will help cut down on it, but even if it doesn’t, understanding the framework can help you better recognize the types of situations you’re dealing with and better decide whether your company’s culture is salvageable or not. So the next you are stuck in an endless meeting, listening to your co-workers saying meaningless words while your boss nods in agreement, rest assured that what is happening is, indeed, bullshit.
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