At the beginning of this month an excellent article by Brooke Deterline appeared on the Greater Good website. It focuses on an area of concern that relates strongly to the work of Philip Zimbardo on what he calls the Lucifer Effect: how do we slide so easily into betraying our principles and how do we learn to stop this happening?
Zimbardo analyses in depth his model of how individuals (the apples) get steered by their situation (the barrel) into doing evil while those ultimately responsible (the barrel makers) evade the consequences of their crucial contribution. He also outlines a possible remedy. He formulated his ‘ten-step programme for resisting the impact of undesirable social influences and at the same time promoting personal resilience and civic virtue’ (TheLucifer Effect – pages 452-456). He ends his explanation of the steps by pointing up two general principles (page 456):
First, be discouraged from venal sins and small transgressions, such as cheating, lying, gossiping, spreading rumours, laughing at racist or sexist jokes, teasing, and bullying. They can become stepping-stones to more serious falls from grace. They serve as mini-facilitators for thinking and acting destructively against your fellow creatures. Second, moderate you’re in-group biases. That means accepting that your group is special but at the same time respecting the diversity that other groups offer. Fully appreciate the wonder of human variety and its variability. Assuming such a perspective will help you to reduce group biases that lead to derogating others, to prejudice and stereotyping, and to the evils of dehumanisation.
Below is a short extract from the Greater Good article: for the full post see link.
In the face of internal and external pressure, these three tips can help you stand up for your values.
Often ignoring our values comes at a cost, initially a physical one. “Whenever I go against my own soul, it has physical effects. I literally get sick,” says Tina.
For Tina, an up-and-coming African-American woman and associate professor at a prestigious private university, one of those moments came just after she had earned a coveted administrative post.
I met Tina at a five-day Multi-Cultural Competence workshop. Tina was the one who skillfully voiced the racial and gender bias that was occurring in the room, most challengingly by the famous founder and facilitator of the workshop.
As one of the most courageous women I know, she’s a perfect example of how easy it is for any of us to betray important values in challenging situations at work. And paradoxically (but not uncommonly), it was Tina’s drive and aspiration to be of service that ended up undermining her.
Tina had pursued that university position because of her deep desire to help students, especially those of color, navigate a new, unfamiliar, and often predominantly white environment.
With one student in particular, Tina says, “I was so excited to help her have a better experience than I and so many other students of color have had.”
Tina was asked by the student to attend an important meeting to help facilitate and provide moral support but was ultimately blocked by…her boss, who said, “It’s not your place in the hierarchy to address this. You have to realize how we do things here if you want to proceed to a permanent administrative role.” (Achieving that status would make Tina the first woman of color in that role, and position her to have much greater influence.)
Tina went along to get along. “I know I didn’t advocate for that student the way I should have. I was worried my actions would negatively impact my ability to move up—I wanted to be seen by others as a ‘worthy’ applicant.”
Sound familiar? Sadly, it happens all the time. And if you have a pulse, something like this has happened to you, and could happen again. But it’s possible to reframe the situation so that we’re less likely to “go along to get along,” and more likely to take courageous action. Below are three ways to stay true to your values and find the courage to stand up for them.