Archive for the ‘Traps to Avoid’ Category


Unnecessary Organizational Shame & Guilt Related to Bullying

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

By Gary Namie, PhD

Individuals targeted for bullying by other employees, regardless of rank, suffer a great deal of personal shame. Sadly it is the consequence of being on the receiving end of humiliation, degradation and threatening misconduct. It freezes the person and inaction leads to stress-related health problems.

Shame is the negative emotion associated with a feeling of worthlessness. The external message directed at people being shamed is that they are worthless. It cuts to the person’s core sense of who they are. It says you are a bad person. Guilt feels similarly negative, but it differs from shame. The guilt message is that one did something wrong knowing there were options. Guilt is feeling bad over one’s behavior, one’s choices, not over one’s identity.

Guilt has a way of influencing organizations in a bad way, too. We’ve seen it all too often in our consulting. It leads to a paralysis, nearly a parallel form of inaction, an inability to solve the bullying problem that has festered for months or years.

For instance, good moral individuals, who may serve as Sunday church deacons, somehow fall into the trap of ignoring bullying because U.S. laws say they can. But gnawing at them is the knowledge that it is wrong to turn one’s back on suffering individuals. Personal guilt ensues. Then coommon rationalizations — “we have no policy,” “it’s a matter of he said/she said,” “I can’t believe the complainant – the story sounds too bizarre and extreme,” and “Bob is a friend — I’ve never seen him be cruel to anyone” — make it easy to move on. Guilt is assuaged.

Decision makers who become internal anti-bullying advocates avoid guilt through a much different path. They act on their internal moral code. They call us. But their fight is uphill in asking permission to address abusive conduct within the organization. They rarely get the permission they seek.

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