“Sir, if we pay him a bribe of Rs. 50,000, he’ll issue the clearance certificate immediately,” the Project Manager said.
“You know we don’t do such things in this company. No bribe. Anything else is OK. But see to it the clearance certificate is with us as soon as possible, definitely within a week,” the CEO replied.
As the PM walked away, the CEO said, “Please keep me updated by email.”
An hour later, the CEO received a telephone call from the regular raw material supplier, who said, “Sir, I was asked to inflate this month’s bill by Rs. 50,000. I wanted to check with you.”
“Sorry, I didn’t hear you. There was some disturbance in the line. Anyway, I’m busy with some very important work. Whatever the matter, please discuss it with the PM,” the CEO replied.
The next afternoon, the CEO received an email from the PM: “Clearance certificate received.”
He immediately emailed a reply: “Good! Please confirm you did not pay any bribe.”
The PM replied: “No bribe paid, Sir.” He smiled. “Ignorance is bliss,” he thought to himself.
The CEO read the PM’s email and smiled. “Ignorance indeed is bliss,” he thought to himself.
This is a fictional story. But, it frequently happens in reality in many organisations of various kinds (business organisations, religious organisations, governments, etc.) in India and the rest of the world. On record, the head of the organization opposes corruption. However, (s)he knows about most of the acts of corruption indulged in by members of the organization. To protect herself/himself from any consequences in case these acts of corruption are exposed in the future, (s)he ensures that whatever is done has been done apparently without her/his knowledge.
Please read this Firstpost piece about Willful Blindness. To quote Adrian Sanders, “Willful blindness is a legal term. It states that if there is knowledge that you could have had and should have had, but chose not to have, you are still responsible.”
Have you come across instances of Willful Blindness? Please do share your experiences.