Usually when we hear the word “sensationalism” our thoughts immediately turn to some form of media coverage be it through the internet, TV, or radio. The news is often blamed for sensationalism. Wikipedia suggests “Sensationalism is a type of editorial bias in mass media in which events and topics in news stories and pieces are overhyped to present biased impressions on events, which may cause a manipulation to the truth of a story. Sensationalism may have reporting about generally insignificant matters and events that do not influence overall society and biased presentations of newsworthy topics in a trivial or tabloid manner contrary to the standards of professional journalism.” However, are we often guilty of the same type of sensationalism in the workplace?
In the workplace, it is likely that the same motivations are at play, minus the advertisers’ dollars perhaps. People probably sensationalize in order to attract attention, promote an agenda, or distract from an issue.
To Attract Attention
There are two primary reasons that people feel the need to attract attention to themselves:
Lack of self worth can be a cause for attention seeking behavior. Some people think that they are overlooked and so they think that the only solution to restore their balance is to bring back the lost attention. The attention they will get in this case will provide them with reassurance and will help them think that they are worthy.
Arrogant & overconfident people may seek attention because they have the feeling that they deserve to be in the center of attention. Because they aren’t mature enough they still think with their inner child’s mentality which makes them believe that they are the center of the world.
To Promote an Agenda
People often feel if they can appeal to the emotions of others, instead of having to put in the hard work of creating a case using data, that they can push their ideas through. This approach is often used in combination with the desire to distract from real issues.
Distract from an Issue
In most circumstances, sensationalism is used to distract from or deflect the real issue. It is created to serve a small subset of the population, or, in the worst cases, only the person creating the sensationalism. When someone starts asking logical questions, asking for data to back up the accusations, it falls apart quickly and the person will respond with additional emotion or accuse you of not wanting to deal with the problem. Staying calm and continuing your quest for the data is usually the best approach.
Sensationalism in the workplace is driven by hidden agendas, self-serving scenarios and egos. Let’s make sure we approach discussions with open agendas, data based decisions and a calm demeanor.