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And talking of management

For anita_margarita

This made me think of the job you finally transcended:

8 Surefire Ways to Demotivate Your Employees


Apr. 4th, 2013 11:06 pm (UTC)
Wow ow ow. That is ... so very earnestly foolish.

I have wondered for years whether it is possible for an agency to independently become sociopathic, and I think I finally figured out that it is a mixture of sociopaths in the positions of authority setting the rules, and people who don't know how, or feel safe, to push back on abusive seizure of power and authority inside the agency.

This goes along with recent examination of the problem of how people become evil. There's a scientist, the man who ran the "Stanford Prison Experiment" in fact, who discovered that certain situations actually FOSTER what he calls institutional evil. He was called on to investigate Abu Ghraib, and his analysis was that they did everything exactly wrong, starting with putting a person in charge who had no experience or training in penal detention, and did not have any rules, safeguards, or training for the people who were working there. He did a video on how people become evil, as a TED presentation, I think it was.

His analysis of Abu Ghraib and Jonestown (and Rajneeshpuram if you get down to it):

How to create evil in good people

1) Ideology to justify any means for good ends.
2) small first steps: minor actions to get commitment
3) successively increase small actions
4) seemingly "just" authority in charge directing acts
5) Compassionate Leader changes gradually to become an authoritarian monster
6) Rules are vague and changing - fitting the whim of the authority
7) Situation re-labels actors and actions, i.e. an "Agressor hurting" is renamed "Teacher helping"
8) Provide social models of compliance, reduce social models of non-compliance.
9) Allow verbal dissent but insist on behavioral compliance
10) Make exiting the situation difficult or impossible.

There's some additional setup that he investigated that creates situations where people are less likely to have individual cognition.

Anonymity and the loss of personal identity can produce a lack of empathy. Uniforms create an Us/Them divide that artificially suppresses empathy. Situational Rules (like the rules of engagement and Combat Conditions) allow and encourage acts that would otherwise be immoral. In fact, transfer of control from cognitive to situational is one of the biggest causes of organizational evil.

It turns out that even verbal context will generate a dehumanizing situation. He did another one of those 'shock' experiments with actors, where the subjects were told that they were helping with a 'learning experiment' where a painful shock is (allegedly) administered for wrong answers. They used students from two rival universities, with one group potentially shocking what they thought were students from a rival school. They prepared them three ways: either no verbal pre-loading, as in, "These students have volunteered to test the effect of shocks on learning. We will administer gradually increasing shocks, for each wrong answer." This was the baseline.
"These guys look like animals," spoken by one grad student to another in the hearing of the shock-administering students, resulted in significantly longer and more intense shocks. "They seem like nice guys," similarly deliberately overheard, resulted in significantly shorter and less intense shocks.

The Stanford Prison Experiment was shut down prematurely by the researchers, by the way. They discovered to their great dismay that there WAS no innate sense of morality in the students who were randomly chosen to be guards.

Stanford Prison Experiment
1) dehumanization
2) anonymity of place
3) Dehumanization
4) RolePlaying and Social Modeling
5) Moral Disengagement
6) Group Cameraderie and Emergent Norms
7) Power differential (guards vs Prisoners)
9) The evil of INACTION: passivity of 'good guards'. (this later definitely happened in Abu Ghraib)


Steve Hutchison

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