Diffusion of responsibility and conformity in organizations can lead to reduced personal responsibility for projects or unethical behavior if people know they will not be held accountable for wrongdoing. The phenomenon of diffused responsibility occurs when witnesses of some dangerous event, such as a murder, a gang beating, or a health threat, show delay before assisting. The delay arises from the fact that each witness assumes that the other person has already taken the necessary security measures.
Therefore, the diffusion of responsibility can have tragic consequences, as in the example of student Kitty, who died in 1969 as a result of a brutal murder in front of neighbors who saw the killer and how the victim bled after the final stab in the back. Each of the witnesses thought that someone had already called the police or an ambulance. Therefore, the details of the incident were reported only when the detectives were interviewing witnesses.
For more efficient functioning of organizations, experts advise reducing the risks associated with the diffusion of responsibility by informing employees about what actions they can take in an unforeseen situation. It is equally important to distribute roles and responsibilities so that people can optimally cooperate and provide assistance. As a rule, people are worried about others, but they don’t know how to help.