Exchanges are essential and inherent to any organization. Members create power point presentations, engage in arguments about assignments and tasks, chat with colleagues, send email, sit in meetings, or arrange meetings, and repeat all of the above in an endless and mind-numbing loop.
It is the assumption that all of these exchanges are productive. However, a 2013 article in M@n@gementclaims, a great deal of these is ultimately, “bulls . . . t.” According to Professor Harry Frankfurt of Princeton University, “bulls . . . t” is not simply false, but is crafted and communicated without concern for truth. Moreover, it is primarily for the purpose and interest of the “bulls . . . tter.”
How often does one rattle off a series of impressive facts and figures without concern for their accuracy, but simply so to be seen as an expert in the area. A “bulls . . . tter” will often liberally pepper the presentation with ambiguous buzz words such as ‘value,’ ‘quality’, ‘excellence’, ‘innovation,’ among others. As the meanings of these words can be anything, it provides the “bulls . . . tter” an escape from too much scrutiny and interrogation.
Reports of large corporations are not necessarily truthful. Although these are not “bald-faced” lies, they often do not reflect the underlying reality of the organization. These are crafted primarily to please its target interests groups.
“Bulls . . . t” is used to generate appeal, enhance image, and impress clients of both the individual and his organization. This is especially essential when the individual lacks the ability or the organization needs the credibility.
Recent economic transformations have led to what is now an increasing number of jobs that involve tasks that do not really need to be performed. These “bulls . . . t” jobs are largely concentrated among the managerial, professional, administrative and service sectors. Although managers clock in 40-50 hours a week on paper, their tasks may only require less than half of these hours to complete. A substantial portion of their official work hours are spent updating Facebook profiles, downloading personal files, or surfing the net.
In the face of a very precarious position, “bulls . . . t” is used by most managers to create and build a convincing narrative of their importance in the organization. Most of the day it is used to propagate, circulate, and participate in “bulls . . . t,” which includes endless email exchanges, lengthy meetings, and organizing seminars and training in pointless skills. This is almost indispensable for building their self-worth and confidence.
Organizations can engage in “bulls . . . t” to build broader legitimacy. Most of them adopt policies and practices not entirely for their effectiveness and efficiency. Rather, these are adopted based on social acceptance. This is evident in many organizations that seek ISO certifications, accreditations, rankings, or those that claim ethics or social responsibility as corporate mantra. By projecting to be a ‘good organization’, it pleases the stakeholders.
“Bulls . . . t” is addictive. When an organization is hooked, a significant amount of the organization’s effort is shifted to the production, circulation and consumption of “bulls . . . t.” This is often at the expense of the organization’s primary task.
As “bulls…t” can positively influence image, employee self-confidence, and organizational legitimacy, perhaps it is for these reasons that there are hardly any concerns regarding when it will eventually hit the fan.
Possibly, it is being actively encouraged in organizations.
Real Carpio So lectures on strategic and human resource management, organizational behavior and management of organizations at the Management and Organization Department of Ramon del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. He is also an entrepreneur and a management consultant. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.