We need look no further for the worst example of bystander apathy at work than the recent sex abuse scandal involving Jimmy Savile.
When MPs recently accused George Entwistle of showing "an extraordinary lack of curiosity", they could equally have applied this accusation to anyone working on Savile’s shows. None of his former colleagues, however, take an ounce of responsibility for not investigating the rumours.
Speaking to Panorama, Jimmy Savile’s producer on Jim'll Fix It explains:
“Jimmy Savile had succeeded in hoodwinking a lot of people including Margaret Thatcher, the Prince and Princess of Wales, the Vatican, the Honours Committee, the NHS and hospitals up and down the country and several police forces and some members of BBC staff, including me.”
That fact that Jimmy Savile’s producer puts himself last on the list is telling. Clearly, he’s trying to get a bit of distance. It’s futile. The producer on Jim’ll Fix It is a great deal closer to Savile’s abuses than the Vatican or the Honours Committee.
He wasn’t being hoodwinked then. He turned a blind eye. It’s wrong, but you can almost understand Savile’s producer not having the courage to destroy his own star. But what about Savile’s other colleagues at the BBC? What sort of culture of fear existed around Savile? New rumours are circulating that, on the rare times he was challenged, Savile would threaten to stop his charity work. And it seemed his fame was such that BBC staff didn’t dare investigate the allegations.
There are rumours that, as well as being a paedophile, Savile was both a con man and a bully. And it was the dangerous combination of con man and workplace bully that allowed him to operate an open paedophile ring whilst employed with the BBC. It enabled him to tow a caravan around the country with a mattress in the back and abuse vulnerable girls at leisure.
If ever there was a reason to address ego maniacs bullying others in the workplace – this is it.