Monday, March 24, 2008

Evil and Ethics in the Workplace

My article at Insidework is up...

Evil and Ethics in the Workplace

Facing the evil around and inside us

A few weeks ago I attended TED@Aspen, a smaller gathering of TED attendees in Aspen, Colorado watching the Monterey, California conference via live video feeds. We listened to various speakers discuss such heady topics as “What is Life?” and “How Do We Create?”.

During one session, Professor Phillip Zimbardo spoke on “Will Evil Prevail?”. This Stanford University social psychologist and author of The Lucifer Effect is best known for conducting the infamous Stanford prison experiment in 1971. In that mock experiment gone astray, student participants played the roles of guards and prisoners — in an astonishingly short amount of time, the guards succumbed to the corruption of their power and began to abuse the prisoners.

Zimbardo compared this experiment to the abuses at Abu Ghraib as a confirmation of his discoveries and research. He hypothesized that the soldiers were good but the barrel was bad. He says not “who” but “what” is responsible for these horrific prison abuses. Zimbardo asked, “What makes people go wrong?”

He defined “evil” as “the exercise of power to intentionally harm people psychologically, destroy them physically and commit crimes against humanity.” (full article)

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