Would your coworker shock the hell out of you for some money, fame or fortune? And I don’t mean shocking news; I mean a potentially deadly electric shock. A recent social experiment in France has proven once again that seemingly normal people can be driven to perform inhumane acts against other human beings. Following orders is never an excuse to do something wrong. It was wrong when the Nazi’s performed incredibly inhumane acts, and it is wrong in the cubicle jungles all across America when bosses inflict psychological abuse on workers through abusive jerk and bullying behavior.
According to New York Magazine, “In an update of the famous Milgram torture experiment, French documentary-makers set up a fake game show in which contestants believed they were shocking a man for giving wrong answers. The idea was to see how far they would go, and the answer is that they would shock him to death.”
Following orders is never an excuse to abuse or mistreat people. Unfortunately, that is the type of behavior that occurs every day across North America. Top ranking executives will expect up-and-coming managers to follow their instructions because the recruits are hungry to climb the corporate ladder. When a corporate culture is devoid of solid, ethical values, this type of behavior can thrive because deep down, employees want to please the boss.
Important Questions to Consider
- Does your company employ leaders and/or employees who lack that strong inner conscience to resist shocking behavior?
- Do you think your coworkers are capable of inhumane treatment?
- Do psychologically abused employees find themselves stranded and secluded from their coworkers?
- What do you do if you see an employee being psychologically abused by a supervisor?
The answers to these questions reveal a great deal about your work environment.
I find this very disturbing. I’ve had to think about this for awhile before commenting. I suppose I’m naive in believing that people are more good than bad more often than not. Such blind and unthinking obedience to authority when that authority is ordering someone to do something wrong doesn’t sit well. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.
At one of my last places of employment, I was commanded to withhold payment of wages to someone because the person over our division didn’t like him. It was all about spite, going for maximum hurt, and I was the obstacle standing in the way. I was over payroll and human resources…a lowly little plant HR manager. My (ex) husband of 22 years had just recently left me for another woman, so the only income coming in was mine. The divorce had wiped out reserves. I was scared because I knew if I didn’t do what was being demanded of me, this spiteful man would certainly come after me and I would probably lose my job. I had been there for 7 years and given it my heart and soul. But I knew I couldn’t give in. Integrity is like this…you have it or you don’t. One unethical, underhanded, illegal act is all it takes to lose it. So, after a gut-wrenching weekend of contemplation, I respectfully declined to follow orders, paid the wages that had been earned to the individual and lost my job less than 2 weeks later.
I like to think I wouldn’t succumb to the pressure to do something awful to another person, especially since I’ve been sorely tested and still did the right thing. But I realize it takes constant monitoring of my actions and reactions to all the little things and events encountered throughout the day to make sure I’ll be able to take a stand when the time comes and it’s called for. All those small events either reinforce or they undermine and degrade our foundation. If we let the little things slide, when something major happens, we are already halfway down the slope. Going the rest of the way doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. But if we have monitored our conduct in all the small things, when asked to compromise our integrity, we can see the situation much more clearly and from a higher perspective. Hopefully, this will give us the clarity we need to take a stand and do the right thing, no matter what the cost.
I didn’t have a fairytale ending when I took that stand. I paid. My employer, true to the vindictive nature of the division president, made sure all reference calls went to his office and he gave me a horrible reference. It took me almost 2 years to find another job because of this and I went through many stages of despair, hopelessness and terror as a result. But I’m still glad I did the right thing, even though it hurt me badly. I hope I will always stand up for what is right. Things like this video and report reinforce the need to do so. The horrible things people will do to others is shocking (pardon the pun), especially when they think they have an excuse or they believe it’s justified. But in the end, there is no justification or excuse for doing what’s wrong or for doing hurtful things to each other. We brainwash and deceive ourselves…and we’re the only ones we fool.
[…] Check out Kevin’s post, including the YouTube video link: http://thepeoplegroupllc.com/2010/03/the-game-of-death-reveals-human-behavior/ […]