Why Good People Do Bad Things

There was an unscientific experiment conducted in the 1950’s by Candid Camera to determine the impact of group behavior on individuals. The experiment took place in an elevator in what appears to be an office building.  Without knowing they were being filmed, each subject walked into an elevator with complete strangers.

The first subject faces towards the closing door but he notices everyone else in the elevator is facing the opposite direction towards the rear. You could tell he was uncomfortable and confused. Without asking a question and within seconds, he turned 90 degrees and faced the rear to conform with everyone on the elevator.

The same experiment was conducted on two additional subjects with the same results, with one even going further, making several position changes in the elevator and putting on and taking off his hat in conformity with the male members of the group. To see this video clip, click here.

I think this silly Candid Camera experiment has a profound message for leaders in Corporate America; group conformity is a powerful force. Pressure from group behavior can be used for good.  Group conformity can also be used for bad purposes.

Using psychological pressure, employees can be compelled into making unethical and illegal decisions. Most of us want to belong to a group and not disappoint our coworkers. Employees typically will jump through hoops to please their boss, especially in a down job market.

You must make a firm decision today in your heart and mind you will do the right thing when you face group pressure to conform. You will notice I said when you face group pressure. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

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