Handling Shame

Handling Shame

Last week, we talked through what shame can look / feel/ sound like in the workplace.

Our homework assignment was to identify where you’ve experienced shame and to see that shame is not just a word but something that all of us have experienced in our life.

So, take a deep breath – let’s jump back in!

Get a Handle On It

Shame crushes team member engagement. It’s the single-highest contributor to employee turnover. If it’s present in your workplace, and you don’t get a handle on it, then your organization will eat itself from the inside out.

The pathway out of shame is authentic and intentional vulnerability.

And, by vulnerability we mean openness – the willingness to share what you are really thinking and feeling.

Not just those thoughts or feelings that you think (or know) will be widely accepted, but also the ones that are a little edgier or that make you feel a little (or a lot) more open or exposed than you would really prefer to be.

Shame cannot live in vulnerability. They cancel each other out.

In an article for Fast Company, Brené Brown says:

When the culture of an organization mandates that it is more important to protect the reputation of a system and those in power than it is to protect the basic human dignity of individuals or communities, you can be certain that shame is systemic, money drives ethics, and accountability is dead.

Here are three ways to battle shame if you think it has a hold at your workplace:

  1. Think about it. Where is it impacting your workplace? Are there certain meetings, teams, or people that are encouraging this type of damaging behavior?
  2. Talk about it. Support others who have the courage to have authentic conversations about shame and acceptance in the workplace.
  3. Be patient. Though shame can be born in an instance, it’s not eradicated overnight. Be clear about your expectations regarding honest and vulnerable interactions. Model it. With the power of vulnerability, your culture can change from one of shame to one of thriving creativity, employee engagement, and innovation.

So, think about it and pick one person with whom you can choose to have an authentic conversation!

Want to Know More?

Check out Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, a resourceful guide to wholeheartedness by honestly confronting your shame and invulnerability as a leader, teacher, parent, and human.

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Let’s Talk About Shame

Let’s Talk About Shame

“Are you intentionally trying to destroy this company?”

You slump further into your chair, staring down at your shoes as Adam, your boss, glares across the conference table. Adam probes again: “Are you? Or are you just an idiot? How could you make such a stupid mistake?”

You open your mouth to respond, but nothing comes out. You can’t feel your fingers.

You can barely breathe.

The room was painfully silent.

The five other men and women gathered around the table nervously shifted in their seats, boring holes in their notepads, as the silence continued to thicken.

Adam stood up.“Get out of this room. I cannot have idiots on my team, and we can all agree here… together…that you are an idiot. You are the worst mistake I’ve made in the last 14 years of building this company.”

Shame. Everyone has it. No one likes to talk about it. It affects everything that we do.

Have you ever worked in an environment that’s controlled or dominated by fear?

If you’re not sure, consider some of these questions:

  • Am I consistently afraid of not doing a good enough job?
  • Am I worried that my Manager or colleague is going to ridicule me?
  • Am I nervous that I am going to be undermined in a call or meeting?
  • Am I concerned that I’ll be blamed?
  • Is the value I put on myself (my self-worth) tied to achievement, productivity, or compliance?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, you may be caught in a work environment that uses fear to control, manage, or ‘motivate’.

It’s incredibly damaging. Shame crushes creativity, innovation, courage, and learning.

In her book, Daring Greatly, research professor at the University of Houston, Brené Brown says this about the subject:

Shame is the fear of disconnection. We are psychologically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually hardwired for connection, love and belonging. Connection, along with love and belonging…is why we are here, and it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.

While the story above is a dramatic case, these types of interactions happen in offices, cubicles, and around water-coolers all across the world.

They might not look the exact same. They might be more subtle or subdued:

  • Highlighting top performers in the company…and bottom performers
  • Criticism in the presence of other co-workers
  • Belittling of new ideas, projects, or initiatives
  • Blame: an inability to take personal ownership for failure

We have all experienced shame in our lives, in one place or another. It could be at your current job, or past job, or with friends – and even family.

This week, take some time to sit with some of the questions that shine a light on shame, and consider were in your life you’ve experienced shame before.

We’ll dive in next week on how to get a handle on it!

Defining Shame

 

As a part of jumping into company culture – we want to take a step back and first define shame.

We’d encourage you to watch Brené Brown’s Ted Talk on Shame (above), as we will use this as a launching pad to talk about shame in the work place in the next few weeks!

Let us know your thoughts on Brené Brown’s research, and we look forward to digging deeper in the next few weeks!