Article: The lure of the dark side of power


The lure of the dark side of power

Some thoughts about how to wean away the corrupting influences of the negative aspects of power at the workplace.
The lure of the dark side of power

With the latest Avengers movie taking not just India but also the world by a storm, it gets one thinking about some inferences which can be easily drawn from the reel life characters about the real ones in the corporate world. It isn’t really uncommon to hear about the dark side of power at workplaces. In the spate of multi-million rupee frauds coming to light most of us are starting to see how power can corrupt. 

Corruption often hovers around power like an invisible force field and history is replete with examples which show how difficult it is to resist the pull to the dark side. Quite often the abuse of power is so blatant and unabashed that it surprises even the most seasoned.

Most high fliers in the corporate world are intelligent, accomplished individuals who have toiled hard to reach where they are. But the sad truth remains that the highly educated and informed choose not to tamper with the power equations at workplaces, the main underlying fear being a backlash. 

Very often, the office grapevine revolves around how some interviews are just a formality, or how some tenders are distributed based on the commission to procurement teams etc. Not to forget the often read about financial frauds committed by the elite few who possess the knowledge and misuse it to mislead the others.

The power paradox

There has been no dearth of high-octane examples of the dark and insidious relationship between power and corruption. Actually, power doesn’t corrupt; it only heightens pre-existing ethical tendencies. The factors that motivate us typically form subconsciously at a tender age and these natural tendencies energize and steer us. They set us up for patterns of long-term behavior. In the world where information is deemed the biggest currency, most corruption happens by the hands of individuals who possess knowledge.

For business leaders to better understand how power sometimes corrupts and to avoid it, it’s important to gain a better understanding of the motivations and biases that drive us all.

How HR can support in managing corporate corruption

Hoarding and misusing information is the biggest ethical challenge that the corporate world needs to grapple with. With the advent of social media and spurt in growth of alternate knowledge centers, it has become imperative to nip corruption in the bud else it shall blow up quickly and cause irreparable damage to reputation. This is true not just in case of organizations, but individuals too, as reputation and online identity have become vital ingredients in the recipe for success in today’s world.

While multiple checks and balances are built into the system to educate and even penalize employees for going against the code of conduct, the number of cases of willful violations has only gone up. So, how does HR help employees grab the reins of power and stay on the straight path, even if they find themselves steering in the wrong direction?

Self-awareness is the key and it is crucial to understand the unconscious drivers behind behaviors. But perhaps more important is helping employees develop greater control over their impulses which will prevent incorrect decisions due to unconscious biases and the lure of the dark side. For business leaders to better understand how power sometimes corrupts and to avoid it, it’s important to gain a better understanding of the motivations and biases that drive us all.

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Topics: Culture, Life @ Work

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