Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Conspiracy Theories and Their Impact on Employment Opportunities

A question has been lingering in the back of my mind of late.  Does a belief in and the sharing of conspiracy theories have any potential impacts on employment opportunities and/or career advancement?  This week I finally carved out some time to do research.  I found more research than I expected on this topic and my findings follow. 

I have shared many of the excerpts from my research with their associated links to their sources below.  Much of my research was found on PubMed.gov, a research site from the National Library of Medicine's National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  • The current research suggests that conspiracy theories may have potentially damaging and widespread consequences for intergroup relations.  © 2019 The Authors. British Journal of Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Psychological Society.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30868563/
  • Conspiracy theories are consequential as they have a real impact on people's health, relationships, and safety; They are emotional given that negative emotions and not rational deliberations cause conspiracy beliefs; They are social as conspiracy beliefs are closely associated with psychological motivations underlying intergroup conflict.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30555188/
  • Research suggests that conspiracy theories are associated with political apathy, support for non-normative political action, climate denial, vaccine refusal, prejudice, crime, violence, disengagement in the workplace, and reluctance to adhere to COVID-19 recommendations.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33612140/
  • Belief in conspiracy theories about the workplace are associated with increased turnover intentions and decreased organizational commitment and job satisfaction. The current studies therefore demonstrate the potentially adverse consequences of conspiracy theorizing for the workplace. We argue that managers and employees should be careful not to dismiss conspiracy theorizing as harmless rumour or gossip. © 2016, The British Psychological Society - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27488243/
  • In May-June of 2017, the organization Leadership IQ surveyed 3,272 leaders and professionals in the USA and found that: 59% are concerned about ‘fake news’ in the workplace.  24% rising to the level of ‘very concerned'.  64% are concerned about ‘alternative facts’ in the workplace.  27% rising to the level of ‘very concerned’
  • Higher faith in intuition, uncertainty avoidance, impulsivity, generic conspiracy beliefs, religiosity, and right-wing ideology, and a lower level of cognitive reflection were associated with a higher level of belief in COVID-19 conspiracy theories.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32837129/
These are just a few of the many reports that I read that reached similar conclusions, and none concluded that believing in and sharing conspiracy theories in the workplace were beneficial to one's career.  

If you are an employer looking to recruit top talent you will find the positive virtues associated with conspiracy theorist are few.  In fact, the list of conspiracy theorist characteristics look like one an employer would wish to avoid:
  • Conspiracy theories are shown to have potentially damaging and widespread consequences for intergroup relations as result of higher rates of conflict
  • Conspiracy theories are associated with increased levels of prejudices
  • Conspiracy theories are shown to have a negative impact on health, relationships and safety
  • Conspiracy theories are closely associated with psychological motivations underlying intergroup conflict
  • Conspiracy theorist demonstrate higher rates of choosing intuition over evidence
  • Conspiracy theorist have higher levels of uncertainty avoidance, impulsivity and lower levels of cognitive reflection
  • Conspiracy theorist are associated with higher rates of climate denial, vaccine refusal, prejudice, crime, violence, disengagement in the workplace, and reluctance to adhere to COVID-19 recommendations.
In all fairness, some conspiracy theories are true.  Some visionaries have recognized connections, networks, associations, actions and events, and reached conclusions that were found over time to be both prophetic and true.  So it's not recognition of a conspiracy it seems, but how controversial and how much distraction and emotional intensity it creates in the workplace that seems to offer difficulty for both employees and employers.

My Findings and Analysis:  Conspiracy theorists are often associated with negative characteristics that introduce conflict, distraction and intense negative emotions into the workplace.  Most employers will want to avoid creating and promoting these situations and environments. Conspiracy theorists will find it challenging to advance their careers in many companies, especially in large, national or international organizations.

As a reminder, these are my personal opinions.  No company is silly enough to claim them.

Read more on the Future of Information, Truth and Influence here:
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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.