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Character is what surfaces when you think people aren’t looking.

When faced with a situation where they can influence an outcome, people show their true colors in one of three ways: by supporting, attacking, or ignoring. The stance they take has much to do with their their moral compass. Those who exist in Kohlberg’s highest stage of reasoning don’t behave toward others in a contingent fashion – in other words, they do the right thing whether or not their coworkers have capitulated.

Those struggling to evolve have a difficult time taking the high road, and when given the opportunity, choose to punish the offending party. An atmosphere of the have and the have nots occurs in a culture where 360 degree appraisal is absent – where evaluation is solely one down, and where power holders are in a position to lie, steal, and cheat. In the absence of constraints (accountability and transparency), individuals can become savage. Victor Frankel (describing his stay at a forced labor camp) stated “some individuals were saints, some were swine.” A parallel is drawn from a survivor of Nazi interrogation: “Undressing was the hard part.  But when I was exposed to them, they revealed themselves.” 

  • Given the means and the entrée, would you bludgeon a peer out of spite, envy, or the fact that they failed to return your affection?

  • Would you vote for someone even if you didn’t like them personally, if they met the requisite criteria? Or, would you instead choose to manufacture your own specific weights against which they should be measured, that have nothing to do with performance?

  • When someone has their back against a wall, at the mercy of the wolf pack, do you ignore them, or do you come to their aid? Do you exercise the path of least resistance and simply pretend that you don’t know what’s transpiring (because that’s easier) and keeps you in the good graces of the dominant party?

See no evil speak no evil hear no evil is the modus operandi of those with a transient set of values; they pretend issues don’t exist, either by keeping their mouths shut or refusing to vote. Not offending the powers that be is more important than doing the right thing, particularly with regard to people deprived of a power base. An example of wishywashiness are company politicians who won’t stick their necks out for anyone, yet who pretend to agree with everyone.

Evaluation of any kind is off-putting to sharing mutual interest in and concern for the company. Nomenclature like subordinate/superior, junior/senior, boss/employer, and manager/non-manager result in the corporate objectification of the people within organizational boundaries. In an environment of non-accountability and unlimited discretion, ego in all of its ugliness is on display. Your ability to berate, demean, belittle and desecrate is out in full view. On the flip side, you may instead choose to channel the divine into your daily rounds. The choice is yours.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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