Milgram Experiment


I read about the Milgram Experiment. In this experiment, conducted in 1961 in Yale University, the subject was given authority to make a subject punish a learner on being prompted to do so by an Authority. The subject was placed in one room and given a handle to administer electric shock to a person if the person gave a wrong answer. The person, the subject was trying to control, was placed in another room and thus the subject could not see this person. The experiment showed that the subject pressed the handle to administer electric shock on the person every time the person made a mistake when he/she was asked to do so by the Authority. The subjects continued their efforts even when the person cried for mercy. The subjects went to administer the fatal blow when instructed to do so by the Authority.

In reality, no electric shock was given to anyone. The subject heard cries from recordings and believed that he/she was progressing on his/her efforts and pleasing the Authority. Now, the experiment proved that people can forget humanity when provided with authority by an Authority.

I did not know about this experiment till about an hour ago. Also, I did not know that such human behaviour had been conclusively proved through experiments. However, I now recall an incidence in my life where something of this nature could have had happened.

I got a job with a company and was posted in Cyprus. Within 1 week, I was assigned to a team. I was made to report to a subordinate under the pretext that I needed learning the contents of the job before taking charge. As this was my first job in an International Company (I had only worked with Indian companies prior to that), I took this positively. However, when I tried getting information about the project, I was not given any. Instead in every meeting I was humiliated in front of the team by asking me question about which I had been given no information. This humiliation continued in front of junior members for about 2 months. Almost every week, some Israeli or an American would come to the meeting and subject this torture. After 2 months, I escalated the matter to the Cluster Head, who was also an Indian. During a few meeting at lunch table, he had always advised me about letting him know if I had any issues.

On escalation, the HR Manager told me that as I could not fit myself in the team, I was going to be shifted to another team under a Israeli Cluster Manager. Now, I was an expert in Telecom Billing and had joined this work after completing a very successful project in Thailand where we had developed a complete Telecom Billing software over 2.5 years. The product was so successful that it got the award for being the best software developed in South East Asia. I signed of the IP Rights in favour of the organisation for which we had developed this software.

After joining the new team, I was given a new team. In this team, there was a very arrogant Team Leader under me. The Team Leader thought that he knew everything about the product and thus I was not required. The Team Leader was also surprised that the company had given me 1000 shares at USD 64 each; whereas he did not receive anything after working in the company for more than 2 years. Though he troubled me enormously, I was able to rein him in. After a few months, we were told that we were the best team. We managed to serve 15 customers across Europe and America for the Switch Control module with just 12 members in our team. There were no complaints from any of the customer and many of our customers had reported significant improvement in the level of the service provided to them.

At this stage, my Manager (who was also an Indian and working in organisation for about 3 years) created a confusion. A team from Israel wanted us to own the complete code for the software and enhance it. This was going to be the first time in Cyprus where the total control of the product was to be handed over to a team in Cyprus. Till that point of time, all products of the company were controlled from either Israel or from St Louis in USA. He accused me having erased all the master data of Orange in Switzerland. I had never accessed the systems in Orange, Switzerland and I did not have any access to their systems. However, the Cluster Manager did not listen to any of the arguments and evidences. I resigned. Immediately, my resignation was accepted. When I told my family about it, everyone was distraught as I was the only earning member and we had a housing loan against us. Seeing this situation, I went back to the Cluster Manager and cried in her office for reinstating me.

After about 10 days of weeping in her office, she revoked my resignation and assigned me to another team under her. Again, I had a team of 12 members. I was given a project. I drew the blue print for how I would go about it. However, my team members said that it was rubbish. I later learnt that my team members were not interested in working on revamping the system as was the assignment. Instead, they wanted to be sent to Dallas for maintaining the existing system. Going to Dallas had 2 advantages as they could go to the USA and as they could earn extra through tour allowances (We could live outside Cyprus for up to 180 days in a calendar year and earn outside Cyprus and yet get our salary in Cyprus).

Then, one day, we were assigned to a new Cluster Manager. This Cluster Manager had only our team under him (Generally Cluster Managers had more than 5 Project Managers under them). So, now we had a Cluster Manager and a Project Manager and me (a Project Leader) for just one project for one client. The Project Manager gave me all instructions which I did not agree with. For example, when he would give me an assignment, he would say that just give it to so-and-so and get the estimates. I was not allowed to review or comment on the estimates. The Project Manager would encourage the Team Members in front of me in the cafeteria and state that this we are doing better with me not able to do anything. However, I was progressing with the project on my own and a Cypriot Lady (who had similar challenges of acceptability in the team. She was the only Cypriot in a technical role in our company. All the other Cypriots in the company were either Secretaries or in some administrative role). When we had completed the design for the revamp of the product, I was told during the appraisal meeting that due to my poor performance I was to be shifted to the Training Department. Nevertheless, I was given a good increment.

In the meanwhile, I was made the assistant editor of the newsletter to be published every month. The Editor told me to take complete responsibility for the next issue. We developed the newsletter and it was a hit. Everyone said that now we had something which could be taken around the world. The next edition was even better and the Editor did not take part as she went on maternity leave.

Being in the Training Team, I had very little to do. So, I developed a software which could scan the entire code base of the company and provide impact analysis given a new requirement was to be added or modified on the software. Everybody was very happy with me in the training team as they said that it made their entry into the company very smooth (Every batch of new recruits would spent 1 month with the training team before they were assigned to a project team). However, the moment I had completed making the software, I was told that I was sacked as I was not producing any value.

This destroyed my life and my family. We lost almost everything except our house and our lives. It took me 4 years before I could start rebuilding the lives of my wife, our daughters and myself. It was not until about 2009 that we reached some form of stability.

The following presentation has been taken from the web site http://www.thepsychfiles.com/docs/MilgramStudy.ppt.

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Comments

  1. I believe in the conclusions of this experiment. I always wondered why eminent cricketers from all over the world speak stereotype, taught dialogues in between their commentary to advertise useless stuff. It is clear to me now that they are just following some Authority (I would love to believe that they do this against their liking) as the Authority promises to pay them money for doing so. These enormously rich people say these dialogues flawlessly even at the compromise of giving good expert comments. The poor viewers of the Television continue to pray these cricketers as God.

    A really sorry state of the world.

  2. Taking out a lot of venom today.

    There was an incidence during this period where I was invited for a drink by one of the Indian Project Managers. After I had 2 pegs of whisky, the Project Manager explained that we have all come to Cyprus to earn dollars. He explained that if I obeyed and stayed in the job, I could earn about Rs. 1 crore in about 2 years. Then I could return to India and relax. He did not know that I do not get drunk even after drinking 1 litre of whisky on the rocks. I never understood what I was disobeying. I was just trying to create systems and processes as was my job.

    In another incidence, my Project Manager (who was an ex-Indian Air Force Squadron Leader) told me that I was from NIIT and not from IIT. So, I needed to just stop trying to create anything. I found that people from IIT who were working for our company regularly spent more than 4 hours drinking alcohol after office hours. These guys had befriended Russian girls with whom they had sex regularly.

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