[CJP Insights] Shame & Motivation

Good Evening,

In our childhood, the naughty kid in class was made to become a ‘murga’  in front of the entire class – other kids would laugh along and teachers felt this shame would motivate one and all. 

We know the feeling only too well: Our pulse quickens. Our faces flush. The feeling is so bad that we want to escape at all costs

Fast forward to adult life and especially corporate life, one wonders whether shame can positively or negatively influence behavior 

It plays an important role in organizational dynamics – affecting what people do and what they will avoid doing

It’s the focus of a paper, titled “Shame Broadcasts Social Norms: The Positive Social Effects of Shame on Norm Acquisition and Normative Behavior,” which was published in the journal Psychological Science.

Shame can be something that aligns people to organizational goals, or it can be something that creates problems. If the emotions are linked to motivation and self-conscious motivations such as

shame in particular, then it is important that managerial attention to such emotions occurs

If you goof up in a critical client presentation or speak out of turn in a meeting, and are reprimanded for that in public, others see that and quickly adapt to avoid the same mistakes and the same terrible feelings of shame. As a self-regulatory mechanism, shame is an important emotion in ensuring that individuals perform at a reasonable level. The risk of being seen by one’s colleagues as letting the group down can have positive consequences.

The other way to look at it is that shame is not a behavioral motivator and if it becomes one, that’s problematic from a sustainable office culture point of view. It will create problems like sabotage and attrition. Shame damages individualism and enforces group-think. Tragically, leaders and managers still fail to understand the power of Hedonic Tone behind every decision-making process. Carrots and sticks are an anachronism. Intrinsic motivation is the only hope for a brighter future at the workplace. Shame does not build a positive office culture. It never has and it never will!

What do you think ?