3 Ways To Kill Your Company’s Idea-Stifling Shame Culture

Proposing ideas makes people feel vulnerable – so it's in innovation's interest to create a culture that's secure. To reignite creativity, innovation, and learning, leaders must re-humanize work. This means understanding how scarcity – a feeling of never having enough – is affecting the way we lead and work, learning how to engage with vulnerability, and recognizing and combating shame.

Shame – the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – breeds fear. It crushes our tolerance for vulnerability, thereby killing engagement, innovation, creativity, productivity, and trust.

Blaming, gossiping, favoritism, name-calling, and harassment are all behavior cues that shame has permeated a culture. A more obvious sign is when shame becomes an outright management tool. Is there evidence of people in leadership roles bullying others, criticizing subordinates in front of colleagues, delivering public reprimands, or setting up reward systems that intentionally belittle, shame, or humiliate people?

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