Almost invisible

Take a look at the many ways the threat of shame is used as an almost-invisible shaping hand in your own organisation. Or in your family.

Can you see its unspoken possibility embodied in the way you do appraisals, award bonuses, promote people, speak to your colleagues, give feedback?

How do your organisation’s values, frameworks, and stated mission work to keep people in line because they’ll feel shame if they stand out?

What about all the ways you keep people feeling insecure about their positions – working harder and harder, but not necessarily more creatively or effectively, to avoid the shame of redundancy or losing their job?

And how about the ways you quietly support people working crazy hours, giving up on their family life, and being seen to do the ‘right thing’ even if it’s not, actually, right for them or for the situation?

Or do you support a culture in which people are instead very nice to one another, and so are unable to bring up what they see that might be troubling, upsetting, or challenging to the cosy picture you’re promoting?

Shame must be almost invisible, but not quite, for it to have its powerful effect. Its invisibility means many of us simply get on quietly – not standing out too much, taking it as a given part of the background of working life.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful act of leadership to start to point out the hidden threat of shame everywhere you see it, and to begin to undo it so that the people around you can at last begin to flourish?

Photo Credit: johnno_oz via Compfight cc