Why Do Good People Let Bad Things Happen? With Max Bazerman

We find it easy to condemn wrongdoers, after they’ve been called out. But why do we often let unethical behavior occur around us, and not speak out? If we take a step back from the idea of there being one “bad apple”, we realize that with any wrongdoing, there is a collection of people who have been complicit in the behavior. Why is there so much fear about speaking up?

“We've created too much fear in speaking up, when in fact, there's so much value in avoiding harm in that process.“ ~ Max Bazerman, Episode 328 Click To Tweet

Our fascinating conversation with Max Bazerman aligns with the publication of his excellent new book, “Complicit: How We Enable the Unethical and How to Stop”. Our discussion is rich with insight, in particular we delve into the reason that we hold people, including ourselves, more responsible for errors of commission than omission. So how can we avoid errors of omission?

Max Bazerman is a world famous behavioral scientist. He is the Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and the Co-Director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is the author, co-author, or co-editor of twenty books and over 200 research articles and chapters. His awards include an honorary doctorate from the University of London and both the Distinguished Educator Award and the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Academy of Management.

Over the years, Max has brought focus to the areas of decision making and ethics. Having been on the show before, we were delighted to welcome Max back to Behavioral Grooves once again. We hope you enjoy this episode of Behavioral Grooves. If you do, please write a review or share with a friend on Apple Podcasts. Thanks, listeners!



(3:16) What does it mean to be complicit?

(13:02) How errors of omission play an under-rated role in complicit behavior.

(18:21) How to move away from the idea that there is one bad apple?

(21:48) Unethical behavior goes unnoticed when it happens gradually.

(23:14) Do we legitimize unethical behavior in our leaders?

(25:51) Do employees need to be made to care about unethical behavior or do they need to demand ethical behavior from employees?

(27:26) When complicitors are engaged in illegal behavior.

(29:29) How can we hold people accountable for their bad behavior?

(37:33) Max’s personal story of being complicit.

(39:31) Are there new norms on data collection that can eliminate fraud?

(42:23) Dolly Chugh’s question for Max.

(46:11) How can we all become better people?

(49:05) What music does Max enjoy?


© 2022 Behavioral Grooves


Other Episodes You Will Enjoy

Episode 196, Living Happier By Making the World Better with Max Bazerman

Episode 325, Dolly Chugh: Can You Unlearn History And Still Love Your Country? With Dolly Chugh

Episode 247, Stanford Prison Experiment, 50 Years On: What Have We Really Learnt? With Dr Philip Zimbardo

AIRDATE: November 14, 2022 EPISODE 328

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Why Do Good People Let Bad Things Happen? With Max Bazerman

Featured Guest

Max Bazerman