In theory ... Beyond Bullsh*t

Emma De Vita's weekly look at management-speak.

It probably comes as no surprise that the author of the frankly named book Beyond Bullsh*t: Straight-Talk at Work is American. Samuel A Culbert is a professor of management at the University of California, Los Angeles, and is the author of such previous books as Don't Kill The Bosses!

Culbert's latest book tackles a common problem that managers face: how to clear a path through all the bullsh*t that swamps you at work - be it management-speak from the HR department or government policy waffle. He argues that an effective workplace is one where reactions are honest and opinions candid. When someone disagrees with us or resists doing what we have asked, we want to know the real reasons why.

So Culbert takes this to task, explaining how bullsh*t can be detected and when and how it is possible to get what he calls "straight-talk". A bullsh*t-free environment gives back self-respect to everyone in an organisation, avoids bloody political battles and increases employees' commitment to your organisation.

The first thing to do is to determine how deeply you are swimming in the stuff. How wide is the gap between how your most senior people like to portray your charity and what it's actually like to work there? If your charity bumf speaks of the mother ship as dynamic, fast-moving or progressive when, in reality, it takes three committees to approve a stationery order, then you're up to your neck in it. If, on the other hand, honesty and straight-talking is encouraged between employees and bosses, then you're already in a good place.

If you think that you're in a bad place, then what? Culbert says less bullsh*t and more "caring, other-sensitive" relationships based on 'straight-talk' will help your team members become more productive. They will be more open about how they are getting on with things, including any mistakes they might be making. The question is, do you really want to hear what your employees actually think of you?

- Emma De Vita is editor of the books pages on Management Today.

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