Weekly Wrap – 29th January 2015


Hi I am Tom McLeod, Co-Founder of McLeod Governance.

This is what I would be thinking about this week.

Shaming Poor Public Behaviour 

In this last week I was sitting on a train at a suburban railway station when suddenly the train driver came over the internal public address system and said:

“To those two boys in the back carriage that are disturbing everyone and messing things up you have two choices.  You can stay on the train and we wont move and I will call the police immediately or alternatively you can get off the train now and we can all go.”

The boys took the wise decision of getting off the train and the train passengers applauded as the train moved out of the station.

As we moved out of the station it got me thinking about the role that shame had played in the incident.

Essentially what the train driver had been doing – looking through his closed circuit TV at the performance of two teenagers many carriages behind – was shaming them into action.

Shame as an Audit Tool

And it got me thinking as to whether internal audit should be using shame as a tool.

For many years we have obviously not used shaming as a tool.  Instead we have tried subtly and quietly pointed out the failings of an organisation and by doing so sought improvement in the control environment.

But have we really had the debate as to whether shaming is a positive and useful tool within an organisation?

There are no doubt some times when it is powerful to shame those that are about to commit a major misadventure against the organisation.

There are other times though when it would work spectacularly poorly.

Moving on the Problem or Fixing the Problem?

As we got to the next station I stopped to think – had the train driver just moved the problem from within the  train to somewhere else?

And that is ultimately the problem with shaming someone – you move on the problem but you don’t necessarily fix it.

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