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Letter to the Editor: The Past Begets the Future

Dr. Camille Drake-Brassfield

Dear Sirs:

The Past Begets the Future

No story of modern times has hit the public as hard as the Jerry Sandusky story. It was a big disappointment for football hopefuls, parents, employees at the school, and the world at large. Although the guilty party serves his time in prison, I am baffled by one thing: Why do employees witness wrong doings and turn a blind eye? The events at Penn State University are not unique. We all can attest to a time when had someone spoken up for truth, someone would have saved the day. It is this aspect of the organization's culture that I wish to explore. According to Ostroff, Kinicki, and Tamkins, as cited in Muchinsky (2011), the culture of an organization comprises of three layers: (1) observable artifacts, (2) endorsed values, and (3) basic assumptions.

The Observable Artifacts of Penn State University

For many years the organization of Penn State had enjoyed the fruits of hosting a flagship football program. They (sports administrators) trained the best, and the institution was known for this excellence far and wide. No one could dispute the glory of those moments up until the allegation came to the fore and then the claims were brought to court.

The Endorsed Values

According to Muchinsky (2011), organizations thrive on values that are shared among the members of the organization. When those values are healthy and positive, it makes for a good organizational belief. However, when those values are infiltrated by individuals with motives contrary to the wholesome organizational ones, it spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E. We cannot claim to have endorsed values when members of the organization knowingly turn a blind eye to that trouble.

Mitigation of Trouble

In light of that event at Penn State, organizations now need to look at ways in which trouble can be eliminated/discouraged. Those answers I assure you may be found in history books and perhaps in research where empirical evidence is tested and answers found. My personal recommendation is to encourage a time of reflection and introspection at the corporate level. Secondly, I would recommend that a proper system be instituted to deal with feedback from members of the organization. Sometimes this feedback will unfold good stories that bring a smile to the faces of all and a pat on the back of the hardworking organizational members. Yet, this feedback could also bear tidings of events that could potentially cause shame and disgrace to the organization. If that business were a parent and had looked out for you all during life, would you not feel compelled to KEEP that parent safe if you were in a position to do so? I hope so. In short, as employers/employees, we need to promote positive attitudes and healthy habits as part of the future artifacts of our individual organization.

Dr. Camille Drake-Brassfield,
Member of SIOP
810 NE 44th Lane,
Cape Coral , 33909


Muchinsky, P. M. (2011). Psychology applied to work (10th ed.). Summerfield, NC: Hypergraphic Press.

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