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Publicly Shaming Good People Removes Them From the Conversation on Change...

Look - I get it - there's a lot of stuff going on in the world that's been a long time coming for society in general:

--Protests against police brutality and the impact of that on minorities - check. Duncan

--the #metoo movement and shining a light on the pig-like behavior and conduct of way too many men in our society - check.

--Equal rights for the GLBTQ community - check.

There's more, but I'll stop there.  Us talking about those things and hopefully course correcting are good things on all levels.  But what's become a by-product of that process is going after people with good intentions by a form of public shaming, and that shaming is focused on calling out people as being non-friendly to any or all of the groups in question.

Of course, social media makes the shaming easy to do.  And the shaming is subtle - it rarely calls someone a racist, a harasser or a bigot in general directly - it simply accuses you of not being as sensitive as you should, which implies that the target of the shaming is any or all of the things I just mentioned.

Here's what happens when you call out a normal, good person with good intent and try to shame them - You push them away from the conversation.  They'll leave the arena, usually never to reengage. And if it's change you seek, that's not a good thing.

Quick story - was doing a webinar a couple of weeks ago for about 400 people.  Going through some slides, and had a shamer hijack the Q&A section by suggesting that my slides didn't have enough diversity.  That's fair on the surface (my slides did include diversity, with about 25% of the slides including non-white people as one form of measuring diversity, and my case study featured a woman), but the intent was clear - the commenter felt one way and tried to hijack the show.

Meanwhile - and I can't make this stuff up - the webinar was slides plus video of the presenter and the following is true....

Behind me on my wall (I'm the presenter) was a canvas oil painting of Tim Duncan (that painting is pictured to the right of this post).  Tim Duncan happens to be black, and he was in my video frame and visible to all participants for 55 MINUTES OF THE WEBINAR.

Translation - my webinar had diversity visible for the entire show.  But the shamers came out.  Lucky for me my skin is thicker than a rhino.

But most people in our workplace don't have my skin thickness and haven't put themselves out there for criticism like I have.  Most of the good faith/good effort people we know will withdraw from any type of risk - and therefore meaningful conversation - as soon as they are shamed.

Shaming shines a light on the obvious bigots.  But when you shame normal people, I'm here to tell you that you're reducing the level of conversation - and probably guaranteeing we don't progress as quickly as we could in our society.

Change is good in the all the areas listed. Be careful you aren't eliminating great people from the conversation by attempting to publicly shame.

 

Comments

Elizabeth

I was on your webinar and saw the Q & A and my first thought was that the person was a jerk. People like that are why we can't move the diversity conversation forward. Many people are scared to tackle the issues because they are worried that if they say the "wrong" think then someone like that will jump on them. Great points made in this post!

KD

Elizabeth - You are spot on...

"People like that are why we can't move the diversity conversation forward. Many people are scared to tackle the issues because they are worried that if they say the "wrong" think then someone like that will jump on them."

This.

KD

Kyle Gillette

Good article. Love the painting. Tim Duncan, PF GOAT.

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