Miami Dolphins: Propagating Evil in the Workplace?

We need to be accountable for ourselves as well as each other.

The Miami Dolphins organization has been all over the news lately. We see headlines that raise questions about bullying, hazing, harassment, workplace safety, poor leadership, and even extortion.

Everyone is asking how a 300 pound NFL offensive lineman could be bullied and harassed into leaving the team with emotional issues? Some reports confirm that he was targeted as a player who needed to be “toughened up” by the Dolphins players and staff.

All of this discussion and rhetoric speaks directly to work culture and an organization that’s lost its way. When a Stanford-educated, strong, young professional athlete feels threatened by his own teammates and coaching staff, there is something evil afoot.

Dr. Philip Zimbardo (famous for the Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971) speaks about this in his book, The Lucifer Effect, identifying seven environmental factors lead to human evil.

Notice how these factors are all driven by the way people act both as individuals and in a group setting. The slippery slope of evil begins by:

  1.  Mindlessly stepping into a new or strange environment
  2. Dehumanizing others
  3. The De-Individualization of Self
  4. The Diffusion of personal responsibility
  5. Blind obedience to authority
  6. Uncritical conformity to group norms
  7. Passive tolerance to bad behavior through inaction or indifference.

NFL teams, like any other organization are prone to doing bad things when the work environment changes and the moral and ethical compasses (driven by leadership) disappear.

nstead of pointing fingers, the Dolphin organization needs to be accountable from top to bottom. They’re all guilty of propagating this evil. The coaches set the tone for “toughening up” younger players, while giving little or no little direction to their veteran players. The veterans are guilty for either participating or turning a blind eye. And the administration failed to have proper measures in place to address these workplace issues as they arose.

Looking at Zimbardo’s list, this becomes a textbook case of the “Lucifer Effect,” where a worker is abused and the organization allows it to happen over an extended period of time.

I think the lesson here is that we all need to be mindful of these factors and let the better part of nature drive the way in which we conduct business (and ourselves) every day. No matter where we are within an organization, we all have the power to propagate known evils or put a stop to them.

In work, as in life, we need to be accountable for ourselves as well as each other. I am my brother’s and sister’s keeper.