Owning up

If you want to take action on the almost-invisible ways in which shame shapes your workplace, you could start with looking at how you project your own shame on others so you don’t have to feel it yourself.

Do you blame other people when some share of the responsibility is really yours? Do you cool towards them, or withdraw? Do you explode with rage when your expectations aren’t met and you fear being shown up? Do you make sure they feel the shame that you don’t want as your own?

Shame and the fear of it ride quietly under the visible surface of even calm, polite, ‘civilised’ organisations which claim to treat people with respect and dignity. And it can take quite some courage to look at all of this, because when you start to see your part in it, you might well feel some of the shame yourself.

If you’re going to lead in a way that allows other people around you to bring their aliveness into their work, you’re going to be called upon to look at the shadow side of your policies, your relationships, and the way you speak: to see what you’re denying and to discover what effect it’s having.

And you need the people around you to be alive rather than sleepwalking if you’re going to have any chance of doing work that actually matters.

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