Yesterday I suffered an allergic reaction to self-designated big fish and their tiresome small-pond antics, but first, let it be known that André Spicer, professor of organizational behavior at the Cass Business School in London, is the author of the book Business Bullshit.
Last November, the author contributed a “long read” to The Guardian: “From inboxing to thought showers: how business bullshit took over.”
A certain amount of empty talk is unavoidable when humans gather together in large groups, but the kind of bullshit through which we all have to wade every day is a remarkably recent creation. To understand why, we have to look at how management fashions have changed over the past century or so.
He had me at “empty,” but there’s even more.
A century of management fads has created workplaces that are full of empty words and equally empty rituals. We have to live with the consequences of this history every day. Consider a meeting I recently attended. During the course of an hour, I recorded 64 different nuggets of corporate claptrap. They included familiar favourites such as “doing a deep dive”, “reaching out”, and “thought leadership”. There were also some new ones I hadn’t heard before: people with “protected characteristics” (anyone who wasn’t a white straight guy), “the aha effect” (realising something), “getting our friends in the tent” (getting support from others).
If Insider Louisville were to ban the use of “reaching out” by its staffers, one in particular, I’d subscribe today. It hasn’t — and I don’t.
Let’s see: claptrap, emptiness, inanity … the word association inevitably leads us down a currently dormant garden path to the theory and practice of Gahanism in New Albany, hence the word I’d chosen to discuss today, kakistocracy.
noun, plural kakistocracies
1. government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.
Origin of kakistocracy
Greek 1820-1830 … kákisto(s), superlative of kakós bad + -cracy
Imagine my surprise when it became apparent that Spicer had been thinking along precisely the same lines. It seems I’d totally missed John Brennan’s recent internet-breaking use of the word kakistocracy with reference to Donald Trump.
Donald Trump’s ‘kakistocracy’ is not the first, but it’s revived an old word, by André Spicer (The Guardian)
… Brennan is the only the most recent in a long line of people to dust off the term to describe what he sees as a incompetent and unethical regime. During its 450-year history, kakistocracy has mainly been used by conservatives to convey their anxieties about what happens when tradition and order are upended. Today, it is being claimed by people from across the political spectrum to describe the wicked disorder that can result when expertise and ethical judgment are aggressively and systematically pushed aside.
That’s breathtaking, considering there is no evidence to indicate that Spicer has ever been to New Albany, where City Hall enables toxic cliques and encourages them to bully the citizenry, as with Develop New Albany’s treatment of grassroots activist Kelly Winslow and the way Gahan’s servile minions laugh it off.
As for the malignant cliques, they were covered here just last year.
1. a small, exclusive group of people; coterie; set
verb (used without object), cliqued, cliquing.
2. Informal. to form, or associate in, a clique
Origin of clique
1705-15; < French, apparently metaphorical use of Middle French clique latch, or noun derivative of cliquer to make noise, resound, imitative word parallel to click
cliquey, cliquy, adjective
The British definitions for clique include further background.
Word Origin and History for clique
1711, “a party of persons; a small set, especially one associating for exclusivity,” from obsolete French clique, originally (14c.) “a sharp noise,” also “latch, bolt of a door,” from Old French cliquer “click, clatter, crackle, clink,” 13c., echoic. Apparently this word was at one time treated in French as the equivalent of claque (q.v.) and partook of that word’s theatrical sense.
Let’s end with a quote about cliques.
No matter where you are in your life, whatever set of people you’re with, it all still breaks down like high school does. You have your social cliques, you have the people you get along with, the people you don’t and the people you’re ambivalent about. All of the dynamics are still here.
— Colin Hanks
Wait — Hanks attended New Albany High School?
Ah, okay (slaps head) … that’s why he’s not a city councilman.