André Spicer

“The Role of Bullshit in Organizations”

I will argue that a great deal of both ‘talk’ and ‘text’ in organisational settings is, ultimately, bullshit. By ‘bullshit’ I mean the type of organisational speech and text that is produced with scant regard for the truth and is used to willfully mislead and to pursue the interests of the bullshitter. Bullshit is particularly prevalent in immaterial roles that lack a clear sense of social purpose. In these contexts, employees try to occupy themselves by engaging in bullshit. They do this by circulating discourses which are strategically ambiguous, over-packed with information and deliberately fleeting in nature. In order to construct these discourses, they frequently turn to examples set by the management fashion industry. When bullshit begins to take hold of an organisation, it can have surprisingly positive effects. It can create a positive image for the company and can help to increase self-confidence and build legitimacy. However, this often comes with some distinctly darker consequences: primary tasks are crowded out, valued occupational identities are compromised and stakeholder trust is undermined. Ultimately, bullshit leaves us with organisations that may be appealing on the surface but are distinctly brittle.

My Claim: “Organizations increasingly spend their time circulating abstract, meaningless ideas, or what I will provocatively call a ‘culture of Bullshit’. To make firms more effective, organisations needs to put into practice ways of clearing out the bullshit from their cultures.”

My Expectations: “I look forward to exploring important issue of culture and culture change in organisations. In particular, I am interested in exploring the lessons and pitfalls involved with culture change.”

Andre Spicer is Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Cass Business School in London. He holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne. He has also held visiting professorships at the Universities of Sydney, Innsbruck, Lund, Paris Dauphine as well as Hanken School of Economics and Copenhagen Business School. He has published five books and over 50 articles in leading scholarly journals such as Organization Science, Organization Studies, and Journal of Management Studies. He has studied a range of organizations including public broadcasters, anarchist movements, slow food producers, knowledge workers, academics and wharfies. Recently he has started looking at bankers. He is a frequent commentator on business issues in global media such as CNN, CBNC, BBC, FT, Wall Street Journal, Handelsblatt and Die Welt. He has also worked with a range of large organisations including Barclays, Old Mutual, Transport for London, IBM, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, BNY Mellon, the City of London and the UK Parliament. He has just completed a book entitled ‘the wellness syndrome’. He is currently investigating the role of stupidity, bullshit and junk management in contemporary organizations.
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