Why open secrets exist in organisations

In 2017, the New York Times broke the now widely-known scandal of media mogul Harvey Weinstein’s apparent decades-long pattern of sexual abuse and harassment. The story came as a shock to the public. However, as details emerged it became clear that Weinstein’s transgressions were not unknown to Hollywood insiders. They were, in fact, an “open secret.”

The big question is this: Why do issues remain open secrets in companies where many employees know about a problem, but no one publicly brings it up?

In studies published in the Academy of Management Journal, authors Insiya Hussain and Subra Tangirala found that, as issues become more common knowledge among frontline staff, the willingness of any individual employee to inform top-management dropped. Instead of speaking up, participants showed the bystander effect, a psychological phenomenon describing how people stay on the sidelines as passive bystanders, waiting for others to act, rather than doing something themselves.

But is the explanation as simple as this?

Find out more in this fascinating Harvard Business Review article at https://hbr.org/2019/01/why-open-secrets-exist-in-organizations

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