IF OUR FELLOW COWORKERS ignore, justify, or condone our unethical behavior, it supports our view that we didn’t do anything wrong or that if we did, it’s not that big a deal.
Ervin Staub, psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts, has written about the origins and prevention of genocide: “Research on individual behavior in emergencies … as well as the behavior of bystanders in actual life situations, like the rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe … has demonstrated the great power and potential of bystanders to influence the behavior of other bystanders, and even of perpetrators.”1
An experiment by Donna Gelfand at the University of Utah demonstrated how often we let transgressions slide. Subjects (180 men and 156 women) were adult shoppers in two drugstores in Salt lake city. A shoplifter, a twenty-one-year-old confederate, gained the attention of an unsuspecting shopper by dropping a store item. The confederate was given a signal (from a hidden observer via a concealed radio communication) when the shopper was looking at her. She then stole several items, placing them in her handbag, and left the store in a hurry without stopping at the cash register. Shoppers were later questioned about the incident. All of the subjects had seen the shoplifting but only 28 percent of them had reported it!2
If 72 percent of people don’t report an illegal behavior by a total