It is easy to condemn obvious wrongdoers such as Elizabeth Holmes, Adam Neumann, Harvey Weinstein, and the Sackler family. But we rarely think about the many people who supported their unethical or criminal behavior. In each case there was a supporting cast of complicitors: business partners, employees, investors, news organizations, and others. And, whether we’re aware of it or not, almost all of us have been complicit in the unethical behavior of others. In Complicit, Harvard Business School professor Max Bazerman confronts our complicity head-on and offers strategies for recognizing and avoiding the psychological and other traps that lead us to ignore, condone, or actively support wrongdoing in our businesses, organizations, communities, politics, and more.
Complicit tells compelling stories of those who enabled the Theranos and WeWork scandals, the opioid crisis, the sexual abuse that led to the #MeToo movement, and the January 6th U.S. Capitol attack. The book describes seven different behavioral profiles that can lead to complicity in wrongdoing, ranging from true partners to those who unknowingly benefit from systemic privilege, including white privilege, and it tells the story of Bazerman’s own brushes with complicity. Complicit also offers concrete and detailed solutions, describing how individuals, leaders, and organizations can more effectively prevent complicity.
By challenging the notion that a few bad apples are responsible for society’s ills, Complicit implicates us all—and offers a path to creating a more ethical world.
Max H. Bazerman is the Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is the author of many books, including Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It (with Ann E. Tenbrunsel) (Princeton), Decision Leadership (with Don A. Moore), Better, Not Perfect, and The Power of Noticing. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his spouse, Marla.
"Mr. Bazerman’s catalog of complicity is sobering. His explanations for why it happens are convincing, and toward the book’s end he attempts to set out what we can do to counter it."—Julian Baggini, Wall Street Journal
“Most of us feel like we’re doing the right thing (or at least not doing the wrong thing) most of the time. In Complicit, Max Bazerman argues that we are often mistaken, particularly when our actions (or inactions) enable the wrongdoing of others. I’m convinced. Required reading for anyone who wants to improve the world and themselves.”—Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
“In this important and insightful book, Max Bazerman explains the reality behind wrongdoing and how to stop it.”—Steven Pinker, author of Enlightenment Now and Rationality
“Complicity is one of the most important ethical issues of our time—yet one of the least explored. Max Bazerman’s careful, humane analysis, filled with terrific stories, data, and concrete lessons, is an invaluable contribution to a better world.”—Cass R. Sunstein, author of Sludge: What Stops Us from Getting Things Done and What to Do about It
“Complicit is a masterpiece and should be required reading for every aspiring leader. Through captivating stories, Bazerman shows us how easy it is to support wrongdoers and wrongdoing. Happily, he also reveals steps we can all take to avoid being complicit.”—Katy Milkman, bestselling author of How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be
“Max Bazerman has convinced me that it takes a village to do wrong—and that many of us live in that village. Complicit may be Bazerman’s most personal and powerful book yet.”—Dolly Chugh, author of The Person You Mean to Be and A More Just Future
“It is said that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Using wide-ranging evidence and letting no one off the hook, including himself, Max Bazerman’s Complicit is a unique and bold book that will help you stop collaborating in enterprises that are opposed to your own values.”—Mahzarin R. Banaji, Harvard University
“Complicit is a potent moral vaccine. Sure, you’re no villain. But are you perceptive and courageous enough to act when villainy asks you to look the other way? Bazerman’s book will sharpen your vision and stiffen your spine. And for a book that will make you a better person, it’s far more entertaining than it should be. Get inoculated, and pass it on.”—Joshua Greene, author of Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them