The Plague of Business Clickbait

In the Karian and Box office, we may occasionally be guilty of an enjoyable lunch break scroll through the clickbait rabbit warren that is Buzzfeed. Sure, we’ll click on “The Top 10 Cutest Pictures of Dogs Wearing Socks” or “28 Dogs That Will Make Your Day Instantly Better”. But it’s immensely frustrating when the same approach is extended to more serious topics, like workplace psychology and employee engagement.

In the business space, these topics are widely discussed. However, there’s a huge number of clickbait posts that look temptingly flavoursome but offer insubstantial empty calories. One of the issues, perhaps, is the chasm between academia and the rest of the world – academic findings have a habit either of languishing in the niche publications in which they first appeared or being cherry-picked for the juiciest nuggets while ignoring the rest. Sometimes their findings are misreported by the wider media, keen for a satisfying black-and-white headline and less eager to publish stories sketched in shades of grey.

This happens a lot with employee engagement. Countless posts claim to offer the need-to-know business secrets that will make your employees happier, your business healthier and your bottom line more productive. But when something seems too good to be true, it usually is – there aren’t any quick fixes that will solve business issues overnight.

Even academia isn’t immune to underhand dealings – a 2015 study by U.S. Federal Reserve researchers concluded that almost half of economics papers don’t pass one of the golden tenets of science: the test of replicability.

Employee engagement is a relatively recent concept, but what we’ve found in our research with thousands of employees is that three enablers – vision, team and voice – remain core factors. While some useful takeaway pointers can often be extracted from the melee of articles and posts, a lot of stories simply have the same old messages dressed up in different clothing.

The moral of the story? Always read stories and papers with a questioning view – interrogate claims, make sure they are grounded in evidence and look for different sources that support what they’re saying. It’s best to use common sense and a healthy dose of scepticism when you’re reading up on workplace psychology and business issues.

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Posted on 9th May 2016 in Insight
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