Don’t fire your BS detector

“BS” is an abbreviation for a colloquialism which is not G-rated if spelled out. An alternative G-rated rendition would be “excrement of the male bovine.” And the term is popularly used to mean lies; falsehood; deception; fake; insincere; nonsense; something completely untrue; and so on. I believe it originates with USA American English though I could be wrong.

In any kind of organization, there are various essential and valuable roles. Perhaps one of the most essential and valuable is that of the person who is capable of detecting assorted forms of falsity and nonsense. A.k.a., BS detector.

This role may or may not overlap with formal roles in the organization. For example, your CEO could be really good in that role, but they are not particularly a good BS detector. Doesn’t matter as long as they are a leader who was able to recognize the person or people playing that role within the organization, and draw on their insights. Instead of feeling threatened by such insights.

This article is getting long-winded already. Long-windedness, by the way, is one commonly recognized indicator of potential BS, so one needs to be careful of getting too long-winded.

An organization can be a corporation, a nonprofit, a neighborhood association, a school faculty, a congregation, even just an informal group of friends, or a family. Basically a collection of people choosing to associate for the purposes of accomplishing tasks.

The BS detector is often very quick to be fired, either literally or metaphorically. This is because it’s not pleasant to hear BS exposed. Sometimes an organization is getting along very happily with its BS cushion, and the revelation of BS brings discomfort or even misery. On the other hand, the revelation and exposure of BS can bring such fresh air and liberation. If the organization is willing to work through it.

Oftentimes the BS detector person is seen as not a team player; not a helpful person; a contrarian; a difficult person. But a lot of the time those personality traits are actually just the persons allergy to be as manifesting itself. The person is basically saying hey listen, I can’t be with this BS. Obviously I love you guys enough to stick with you, and try to fix things, but if you’re not going to fix things, I’m going to have to leave.

Oftentimes, though, people are very happy to see them leave so they can get back to their peaceful organization. So the detector’s attempt to rid the organization of BS does not work.

But on some level, everyone feels the falsity and stiflement. An organization without BS detection capabilities may feel peaceful and effective (at least to its inner-circle members), but it’s not going to stay healthy in the long run. And it’s going to be squandering human energy, creativity, and other precious resources.

Now, if you happen to be the BS detector in a given situation or organization, here is a big pitfall: Typically, the BS detector does not want to leave the organization. The BS detector is committed to the organization’s mission, and/or feels some form of love and duty to the people in it. The BS detector wants the organization to get free of the stranglehold of BS, so that it can achieve its full greatness.

And when I say that the BS detector is readily fired, unfortunately it’s not a really clear-cut thing. It’s not like anyone will come to you and say you need to go. Rather, you can expect to experience all sorts of ostracism, usually very very low grade and petty, of the sort that will wear you down slowly and make you question your sanity and validity. I’m talking some unbelievably, fiercely, viciously petty stuff. And, as many of you know who have experienced it know, the little stings can be a lot harder to counter than an overt attack, because of plausible denial by often very socially and politically adept individuals.

So, if you really love an organization and are committed to it, and this has started happening, you need to take steps to guard your own emotional safety. Don’t wait for someone within the organization to validate your sense that this is happening. (Anyone who would agree with you is too busy trying to survive in the organization to be willing to admit to you out loud that they share your assessment.)

Just check the results of your bloodwork (if you get health checkups), your inner gut-check, or any other tests that you do to monitor your well-being.

And, you need to know when to cut your losses. Because if an organization just does not want to let go of its BS, there are almost certainly better uses for your heart, energy, and soul. Beware the occupational hazard. The medical consequences and emotional consequences of trying to ride out such malevolent weather can be quite deadly. Even if you consider yourself a person who handles stress well. Maybe even especially so.

As I was typing the title of this post, it struck me that “Don’t fire your BS detector” is true on an inner level as well. We each have our own little inner BS detector, although some of us have unfortunately managed to bludgeon it into silence over the years in order to get by in the world. We need to value and nurture our inner BS detector. Not fire it! No matter how stunted, wilted, pale and scrawny it may be, it can be nurtured back into life. Ways of doing so including spending time alone in nature, spending time with people who have their own robust BS detectors, and just spending time one or two people who truly, deeply love us and get us (although it can be hard to identify such people, if our BS detector is broken — thus creating a vicious circle).

If you are tempted to fire your inner BS detector so you can get on with the rosy business of clinging to the fruits of blissful ignorance (be it a little bubble of popularity, some crumbs of recognition, a 401(k), a nice-looking and only mildly abusive partner, or what have you), please reconsider. Much better things are in store for you if you are willing to face down BS within yourself.