Public shaming is so shameful

The other day I was having a meeting in a cafe that was situated in a busy and dynamic office building just off Flinders Street, in Melbourne.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see this woman talking down to a man about something that had happened in that building.  The woman was trying to speak quietly but she was clearly angry and not accepting the responses she was receiving and her voice got louder and louder.

My meeting ended and I had to wait a while for the rain to pass and I watched as this woman continued to raise and deal with a performance issue in public.  She kept responding to almost everything the said with “no, that is not acceptable” or “we have discussed this before” and it seemed that nothing he said was going to satisfy her. He was wrong and she was right and it was all so very public.

I cringed.

I cringed not only because public shaming is not ok; but because it was clear that she wasn’t listening to him. She had a fixed position and nothing he said was going to change that.

I cringed for this woman that she had so little self awareness that she couldn’t see that she was the one on show; not the person she was attempting to shame.

I cringed for the man who felt he had no option but to stand there and take it because he wanted or needed this job… whatever it was.

To this day, I have never met anyone who goes out of their way to perform badly; particularly to the point where an employer or contractor would tell them off in public. So chances are that this woman has not adequately explained her or the organisation’s expectations. That there was a miscommunication of some sort.

We all need feedback. We all need to know if we have understood what is required of us; what is going well and what we need to work on. That’s fine.

But it is an abuse of power to aggressively provide negative feedback in a public place without any consideration of the wellbeing of the person receiving that information.

People matter. Their mental health matters. And we need to be more considerate.

 

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