The Shame Game: Saving Face in Group Collaboration

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons license.

As a follow-up to my Lincoln Letters post, I’m going to extend that thought by adding that when you decide what really needs to be said, what’s the best way to say it? When working with a group of people, knowing how to tactfully point out errors to an individual can generate good will while maintaining the focus on quality. The errors still need to be corrected, but sometimes doing this “offline”, as in not in the view of others in the group, will still get the job done while helping your co-workers to save some face.

Certainly public shame can be a motivating factor to improve, but just as often it’s not (just check the sports section). I’ve experienced that it’s often better to let your team mates focus on fixing the problem, rather than remorse that the problem arose in the first place. All of the best project leaders I’ve worked with have focused on resolving problems over assigning blame or the passing the buck. 

While internet forums and social networks are great for group project collaboration and communication, when pointing out mistakes with members of your community the private message often works better. Factual errors and difference of opinion might be better shared with the whole group, but for many other mistakes, a private email or call may get the desired resolution while saving your co-worker some embarrassment. And if your point is to embarrass your colleagues, I would point out that playground rules still hold and no one likes a tattle-tale, so that’s just one more reason to tread reasonably when using the public sphere to show the mistakes of others. 

This isn’t just some feel good best-practice speak but comes from my own experience. I’ve found that using the private line to point out problems can often get me the same results as through an open forum. I’ve also seen how pointing out minute mistakes in a public forum can sour the collaborative atmosphere. 

How about you? What are your experiences with the shame game in group collaboration?


About Mike Ward

Connecting the digital to the local - website management, social media and event promotion.
This entry was posted in communication, community building, email, social media. Bookmark the permalink.

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