The Bystander Effect


The Bystander Effect

The Bystander Effect

In 1964, Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death outside her apartment in Queens. Her death was not notable due to the gruesome nature, but rather became memorialized in Psychology texts as a classic example of “bystander effect”.

According to a New York Times article that ran two weeks later, Kitty’s murder was witnessed by no less than 38 people and no one came to her aid.

The bystander effect is often discussed as a critical consideration in emergency response. If you’ve taken any type of training, you are told rather than saying “Someone call 911” you need to point and assign tasks to bystanders.

Why? Because without assigning personal responsibility, bystanders assume someone else will do it.

Your culture may be suffering from the bystander effect.

When problems or difficult situations arise, who takes charge? Is it the “boss” or the same key person every time? Or, worse still, do problems just float in the abyss until they hurt badly enough to get resolved?

A strong organizational culture stamps out the bystander effect. It accepts, spotlights and resolves problems with a responsible level of transparency and honesty. Not only is leadership willing to escalate and assign responsibility for issues, EVERY EMPLOYEE is empowered to identify, ask for help and resolve problems. 

Are you creating a culture where problems lead to a bystander effect or all hands on deck? OR are you creating a culture where problems are swept under the rug for fear of punishment? 

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