Thursday, 25 June 2015 11:42

Triumph of evil

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.


This well-known quote which is attributed, (probably incorrectly) to the British philosopher Edmund Burke, has as much relevance now as it did in the 18th century. 

Many of us work, and live, in environments which operate to norms that we disagree with, that make us uncomfortable, or that we consider dishonest or unethical. Changing them is difficult. But until someone speaks up, nothing will change. 

The fate of most whistle blowers however is not one to wish upon yourself, so if you decide to speak up, do so with some caution. 

  • Start by gathering the facts that illustrate the extent and frequency of the problem and its effects. Consider the best way to present them so you come across analytically and calmly. It won’t help your case if you come across as a self-righteous zealot.
  • Get a feel for the amount of support that exists for current norms. If it extends right to the top of the organisation you need to plan your strategy, (maybe even an exit strategy), accordingly.
  • Norms are only ever changed when they go public, so start talking. In conversations with your peers and senior colleagues, be respectful. Concentrate on the implications and impact of current behaviours. With your own staff, avoid threatening behaviour that will alienate them. Instead help them see good reasons why they should change their behaviour.
  • Once you are all agreed on what should change, encourage everyone to confront people who violate the agreement and agree on the sanctions that will be applied to those who choose not to change.
  • Follow up. Ensure there are positive consequences for those who try their best to make the change and negative consequences for those who don’t. Focus also on people who see violations but say nothing. They need to hear that you expect their support. 

It’s a delicate process that takes time and demands patience as much as skill.

And reflect on Burke’s quote..

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