PsyPost, reporting on a study in Psychological Reports, introduces us to the OBPS, a way to scientifically quantify the amount of useless, stupid nonsense we’re exposed to in the workplace, educational facility, or any other institution. What do those initials stand for? It’s the Organizational Bullshit Perception Scale, and it measures something we all recognize instinctively:
“While the term bullshit, has moved from being seen as a swearword to a term used to describe an act of communication, it is one that remains relatively taboo in academic literature,” explained study author Caitlin Ferreira, a lecturer in marketing at the Luleå University of Technology.
“What’s interesting is that workplace bullshit (BS) is something that most people can relate to. If somebody says ‘that’s bullshit’ there is typically a shared understanding of exactly what that means, but the extent to which this phenomenon has been studied in academic research pales in comparison to other workplace phenomena.”
In an initial study among 332 employees, two statistical tests called exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis confirmed that there were three distinct factors involved in organizational bullshit. The first involved an organization’s tolerance for communication that disregards the truth. The next factor involved the boss’ use of bullshit at work. And finally, the third factor involved the use of bullshit language in the workplace, such as the overuse of acronyms or corporate jargon (e.g., “thinking outside the box”).
The researchers next checked the validity of the scale — the extent that the scale measured what it was intended to. The scale appeared valid, and two of the three factors were found to predict scores on a separate 4-point scale of perceived bullshit within an organization.
A second study among 343 employees additionally supported the subscales of the OBPS but could not confirm the three-factor model. Notably, the researchers uncovered flaws from this study’s data, which might explain why the results were inconsistent with the first study.
Overall, the authors maintain that their research offers evidence that bullshit in the workplace is recognized by employees.
“Workplace BS needs to be called out,” Ferreira concluded. “It’s very important that individuals feel empowered to ask questions in the workplace to ensure that decisions are made based on evidence and fact as opposed to a blatant disregard for information. So, the next time you find yourself thinking ‘well, that’s bullshit,’ speak up and call out decision-making that’s done without much regard for the truth.”
You can read the Psychological Reports study here.