A Cure For Common B.S.

In "Beyond Bullsh*t," Samuel Culbert, a professor at UCLA's Anderson School of Management, tries to cure the scourge of cubicle culture: excessive b.s. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Tony Dokoupil:

Why did you write this book?
I wanted to explain why bulls––t has become the etiquette of choice in office life.

How do you define b.s.?
It's telling people what you think they need to hear. It may involve finessing the truth or outright lying, but the purpose is always self-serving. And while I appreciate the role of some b.s. in keeping the corporate peace, it makes people feel beaten up, deceived— even dirty. When people talk straight at work, companies make out better because the best idea usually wins. In contrast, when people are bull-s––tting, they hide their mistakes and the company suffers.

What's required to create a culture of straight talk at work?
Straight talk is the product of relationships built on trust. No one advocates something that's good for the company that's not also good for them. By the same logic, no one has ever washed a rental car. The trick is to create a work environment where people feel sure that they'll be rewarded for their ideas.

What does your b.s. detector tell you about the current economy?
Whenever there's a recession, there's a boom in bulls––t.

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