Home Concepts Decison Making & Problem Solving The Crises of Expertise and Belief: Sample Chapter

The Crises of Expertise and Belief: Sample Chapter

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In one case, for instance, it was an individual leader who played a role that is similar to that of a world leader who is stimulating conspiracy theories for their own malevolent objectives. Working in an international energy company, this leader fostered false stories about other leaders and their intentions. The results were extremely damaging to the people and the project. Several of the employees working in this company were particularly vulnerable to this leader’s false stories. These were men and women who felt particularly vulnerable and helpless.

Apparently, these employees are not alone. Several research studies have shown that when an employee is bullied in the workplace, they are much more susceptible to believing conspiracy theories (Staloch, 2022). Furthermore, as Brian Gallagher (2020) has concluded:

Conspiracy thinking isn’t just a result of information suppression or mis- and dis-information saturation in wider society, of course. It can also fester in the relatively small confines of the workplace, corroding any sense of trust or collaborative spirit in an organization. Conspiracy beliefs can thrive when workers in businesses are relatively powerless, having little responsibility or control over their duties, and face uncertainty concerning things like the motives of new management. Employees in these circumstances are liable to suspect that managers may, for example, conspire to hire a particular person for a job, or coordinate in getting a worker fired.

Douglas and Leite (2016) identify an additional variable that has to do with organizational allegiance (one of the factors that also contribute to collective organizational learning):

Conspiracy theories decrease organizational identification. If an organization is riddled with perceptions of conspiracy, such as beliefs that managers are deliberately trying to harm employees, this is likely to weaken the importance of the organization to the individual and reduce the positive self-esteem they derive from it.

Conspiracy, Coaching and Consulting Redux

We return to the role that can be played by a leadership coach or organizational consultant. First, they can ring the alarm regarding conspiracies. The findings by Douglas and her associates (Douglas, et al. 2016) speak to the nature of this alarm:

. . . managers and employees may need to be mindful of the effects that conspiracy theories could have on the workplace. Considering Conspiracy theories in organizations and the potential costs of (employee) turnover, and the negative effects of low commitment and job satisfaction on behaviors at the workplace such as organizational citizenship behavior, it would be a mistake for members of an organization to dismiss organizational conspiracy theories as idle gossip or rumors with little consequence.

Second, leadership coaches and consultants are in a unique position to counter organizational conspiracy gossiping given that their roles are not “line” positions and are most often trusted advisors. They often cross organizational structure boundaries and formal roles. They can then “follow the conspiracy dialogue” to its source and provide coaching and advice on how reduce gossiping. Coaches and consultants can advise leaders on the potential threat these conspiracy theories pose—and document the potential impact of conspiracies on the organization’s performance.

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