What you do with shame

Shame is among the most hidden of emotions because being ashamed is, itself, considered so shameful. So we develop strategies to hide it and to project it, particularly in organisational life.


Shaming others because of your own shame. Even better if they’re more ashamed than you are.

Blaming them for the very actions that shamed you. Blaming them for something else entirely. Yelling at them. Judging them (so that you can convince yourself you’re better than they are). Telling them how unreasonable, how inattentive, how self-centred they’re being.

Saying: “I’m doing this to you because it’s company policy”; “I’m doing this for your own good”; “We’ve decided to measure things in this new way (that will spare me shame and transfer it to you)”

Managing them out (of the room, the meeting, the company).

It’s no wonder we do this, given how often parents and teachers used shame to keep us in line (or project their own shame) when we were small. And it’s no wonder we work so hard to hide it.

But the extent to which you do this in your family, in your team, and in your organisation is the extent to which you’re actively increasing the shame in those around you.

Once you know this, you have a choice. Are you prepared to own up to your own shame and work with it courageously when it occurs?

Or are you going to continue constraining everyone’s capacity to create, to imagine, to stand out, to step forward, and to take responsibility, simply so you can feel better?

Photo Credit: mr. Wood via Compfight cc