From 2011 to 2016, salespeople at Wells Fargo branches fraudulently opened millions of deposit and credit-card accounts. This scandal would eventually cost billions of dollars in shareholder value and claim the job of CEO John Stumpf. As details of the misconduct surfaced, Wells Fargo leadership asserted that some employees had acted badly, violating the norms and values of the company.
Sociologists have defined a second explanation for organizational mistakes and misconduct: "normalized deviance." Sometimes, individuals inside an organization become so accustomed to bad behavior that they no longer notice that their behavior when inside the organization breaks rules and norms they would consider sacred elsewhere.
How and why did the crimes at Wells Fargo happen? We'll grapple with this problem by looking at contemporary accounts of the Wells Fargo crisis and consider tactics for guarding against both bad behavior and normalizing deviance.
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