Why we need to call each other out

In university, I stood in a bus stop for hours at a time watching people at crosswalks. In January. In Ottawa. The reason I endured the bone-numbing temperatures was for a sociology assignment I was completing.

In sociology, we learn that people are more likely to do something they know is wrong if they see other people doing it. Thus, while it is illegal to jaywalk, I found that most people were willing to do it if they saw the person before them doing it. Vice versa, if one person chose to not jaywalk, the next person usually followed their lead and waited for the light to turn.

Jaywalking is a pretty common in Canada and the United States. You’ve probably done it before, as I have. Most of us don’t think twice about it. However, you won’t find many people jaywalking in Germany. Crossing the road improperly is a major societal offense in Germany.  Police will fine you for it, but more importantly, you are likely to be called out for it by others.

What this tells us about organizations is two-fold. First, if we want people to behave a certain way in our teams and organizations, it is important to have people demonstrating the behaviour. We are more likely to act a specific way if we see others acting that way.

Second, we need to weave these behavioural expectations into the culture of the organization until everyone owns them personally and is willing to call out others when they go against the behaviour we are striving for. The behaviour becomes unacceptable because most people won’t go against the values of the group they belong to and risk their place within it.