Chief People Officer on psychological torture at work

Chief People Officer Kevin Kennemer serves up a compelling blog entry about a recent televised social experiment in France where participants in a fake game show were ordered to administer electric shocks to those giving wrong answers.  (It’s a remake of sorts of the famous 1960s Milgram experiment which tested obedience to authority.)

The results are stunning and disturbing.  Kevin then relates the gruesome truth to psychological torture in the workplace.

Questions to ask

Kevin concludes by suggesting that we ask these questions about our own workplaces:

  • Does your company employ leaders and/or employees who lack that strong inner conscience to resist  shocking behavior?
  • Do you think your coworkers are capable of inhumane treatment?
  • Do psychologically abused employees find themselves stranded and secluded from their coworkers?
  • What do you do if you see an employee being psychologically abused by a supervisor?
  • Going too far?

    Some might think it a stretch to relate these experiments, with their obvious connections to the “just following orders” justifications of the Nazis, to abusive behavior at work.

    I disagree.

    While certainly bullying and abuse at work cannot be equated with genocide, the underlying human instincts can be shockingly similar.  Severe, malicious mistreatment at work often carries with it eliminationist tendencies — a desire to rub someone out of the workplace — even if they apply “only” to one’s career versus a life.

    Check out Kevin’s post, including the YouTube video link.

    5 responses

    1. No, it’s not going too far…I’ve been on the receiving end of a blackballing campaign, that resulted in my not being able to find work, ended up having to declare bankruptcy because I couldn’t pay bills/loan, and had to resort to welfare. The group involved is a union. Unions think they own the world and everybody in it and believe they have the right to ‘discipline’ their members if they don’t behave in the correct way and can be both judge and jury. Members cannot say/do anything to defend the person as they know the same fate awaits them. Their methods are beyond anything that resembles humanity, what it boils down to is sadistic behaviour.

      • Carol, I’m sorry to hear about your experience. I’ve seen unions good and bad, and I understand the kind of behavior that you have endured. The bad ones are exactly what you described, and they can be brutal on dissenters. I appreciate your sharing your comments here. David

    2. I was bullied intermitently for 5 years, then I was mobbed for 23 months with the most intense mobbing being the the last 10 months before I finally transfered out and was demoted. I was denigrated, ignorned, yelled at in meetings, my work was “shelved” or reassigned to my bosses friends. I was mocked by subordinates and the boss, my performance was exceptional for 21 years and suddenly my work evals were downgraded. I was investigated, followed, spied on, lied about, and now I have to go to counseling because they fear I may be a threat to those who bullied me, because I turned them in to EEOC now they are trying to get me to believe that my ego was in my job and i deserved what I got! I thought I was going to over the edge so I don’t mind the counseling but this guy is trying to protect the company not help me. It all insane! Like the cheshire cat said, they are all mad you know!

    3. Pingback: Is your workplace psychologically and ethically healthy? « Minding the Workplace

    4. I am the target of 2 female coworkers one has been bullying me for the last 10 yrs, the other joined her about 3 yrs…things have been getting worse the past few yrs their group has grown due to the hiring of family and friends of these crazy individuals and them somehow turning many others against me. Things are now at a level thats become almost unbearable. I have about 120 co-workers and 50-60 of them are now mobbing me. we are union and i am not allowed to put in a complaint to my management against these “people” even if i could i would be afraid of the backlash. They spread untrue rumors about me and have keyed my car, spit on it, dumped drinks on it etc. no cameras to catch the perps so nothing can be done without proof. This situation is affecting my health and my ability to do my job. I cannot quit because i have 3 daughters i support by myself, i get paid very well and my job is school related so i have the same hrs as my daughters. this is causing great stress and i dont know how much longer i can hold it all together and i dont know how to deal with this horrible situation…

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