Community//

The Continuum of Destruction – Are You the White Knight?

The fate of large organizations and corporations is decided by the choice leaders make to play the role of the Bystander or the Heroic Helper - the White Knight! This is even more stark in times of global crisis such as today.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!

In his 2003 published research on the psychology of bystanders, perpetrators and heroic helpers, Erwin Staub made a point that most acts of destruction and genocide had three actors – those who instigated, those who remained as bystanders and few who had the heroic courage to help. 

The same psychology applied to an organization translates into the leaders and people who for their personal survival instigate actions not in the ultimate interest of the organization which leads to gradual and unnoticed erosion of valuable talent.

There are leaders who remain as bystanders even if they have the power to influence and are passive to the ‘un-bricking’ of the organizational foundation. Instead of standing up to colleagues and speaking their minds, they prefer to watch the events unfold, gossip amongst themselves and head back to the confines of their safe havens. They gradually help create a wider acceptability of the destructive sequence of actions in play, as more bystanders join them to ‘un-brick’ the foundation. And then there are a few heroic helpers who are few but bold. They are the white knights of the organization and loyal to the future of business. They stand up, extend a helping hand, or if they are in a position of influence persuade the board to understand that the dominos effect of the unfolding events instigated by a perpetrator will lead to the ultimate destruction of the organization.

This story repeats itself many times over the age of an organization which is unable to lock the perpetrators and bystanders out. Ultimately both valuable talent and heroic helpers dwindle. The discreet events lead to a continuum of change which over decades breaks the very foundation of the organization. The issue with buildings having progressively weakening foundations is that there are no visible signs of organizational decay for years and even decades sometimes. Then the unavoidable happens as the last domino hits the floor, in a matter of months the building collapses and so do organizations. 

In these times, while cash flow and costs drive many business decisions, everyday two kinds of businesses are in news those who have laid off many to ease their bottom line and those who may have made performance cuts but largely protected their valuable talent, the bricks of the organization. Between these two, it should be an easy guess to differentiate between organizations with firm foundations and the others.

In the Covid19 crisis fallout this has become even more stark and noticeable. 

So are you the Bystander? Or the Heroic Helper who can make a choice now to help the affected even if you are affected ? Choice is yours to make.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Never Stop Learning//

Stopping the Next George Floyd Killing

by NSL Experience, Catherine A. Sanderson, Cornell William Brooks
Community//

This Is How One Man Has Spent His Life Studying the Roots of Good and Evil

by Ervin Staub
Community//

The Creative Power of Constructive Conflict

by Jeff DeGraff

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.