I have to tell you I’m just in love with this headline for so many reasons, but probably mostly because everyone who reads it instantly starts shaking their head in agreement to someone they know who is ‘Pseudo-Profound’ and they know the employees who buy into it!
The best part of all of this is there was an actual study done! Yes, Academics finally doing important work! The title of the paper is – The Complex Relation Between Receptivity to Pseudo-Profound Bullsh*t and Political Ideology by some researchers at a Swedish university. From the study:
Among Swedish adults (N = 985), bullsh*t receptivity was (a) robustly positively associated with socially conservative (vs. liberal) self-placement, resistance to change, and particularly binding moral intuitions (loyalty, authority, purity); (b) associated with centrism on preference for equality and even leftism (when controlling for other aspects of ideology) on economic ideology self-placement; and (c) lowest among right-of-center social liberal voters and highest among left-wing green voters…The results are supportive of theoretical accounts that posit ideological asymmetries in cognitive orientation, while also pointing to the existence of bullshit receptivity among both right– and left-wingers.
So, basically what they found was that the farther you are away from the center of moderate political ideology, whether conservative or liberal, the more receptive you are to pseudo-profound bullsh*t. If you tend to be super-conservative or super-liberal, you basically buy into bullsh*t more than others.
Now, this doesn’t have to be a leader who is trying to be pseudo-profound, we all know individual contributors who take over meetings also trying to be pseudo-profound as well!
It does speak to employee selection and leadership style. If you have a leader who you know tends to lean towards the pseudo-profound spectrum of bullsh*t speak you probably want to surround that leader with employees who will actually buy into their bullsh*t. Which means you’ll be looking for people who are farther away from center on their political beliefs but also probably have a bit of a lower cognitive orientation. I mean we want them to really buy in completely!
The reality is, this is how organizations, and countries, go very wrong!
I work with leaders constantly who will say they don’t believe their employees actually tell them the truth. Well, they are mostly right! Your employees are buying into your pseudo-profound bullsh*t and you selected them for that propensity, thus, they are telling you what you want to hear, not because they fear you because that’s all they are capable of!
It’s a really fine line. We want engaged, motivated employees. We want visionary leaders who can paint this picture of success and get everyone to buy in. But, we also don’t want people to follow blinding down a path that sends us over a cliff. At the same time, those type of employees are the most challenging to work with, so it’s easy to understand why organizations and hiring managers tend to pick those most receptive to pseudo-profound bullsh*t.
On a positive note, in ten years of writing, I’ve never got to write a post where I said bullsh*t this many times! Also, “Pseudo-Profound Bullsh*t” would be a great autobiography title for me!
Getting statistical here, and applying standard deviations, isn’t the message here that bullsh*t likely doesn’t work on the +- 2 Std. Devs? As in 66% to 95% of people don’t buy bullsh*t in the first place? Yet so many HR and “Leaders” keep the bullsh*t factory running?
It’s call “confirmation bias”. And that is actual profound bullsh*t.
I have to say, when I saw the title I thought this was going to be bullsh*t. Then I figured the study itself was going to be bullsh*t. But as it turns out, it was actually interesting, not really bullsh*t at all, which was oddly disappointing. Apparently, I didn’t want to learn this morning, just complain about bullsh*t. (You’re right, this bullsh*t business is satisfying.)