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Using Chastisement as a Management Tool

Leadership & Management

In my experience, using chastisement as a management tool is foolish. Let me provide three examples of how using chastisement of subordinates will destroy your career.

The first reason is that nobody is perfect, including you, and everybody knows it. It is hypocritical to chastise others and tempts you to obfuscate responsibility for your own mistakes or worse yet make excuses or lie to hide them. In using chastisement you earn distrust from the people you supervise. They recognize that it is an arrogance-driven abuse of power.

The second reason brings to mind an incident that happened to me as a boy. I was playing marbles one day with two of my friends. The game was to draw a circle in the dirt and ante up a marble in the center. One at a time, you would shoot a second marble at the center marbles and any marble you knocked out of the circle was yours to keep. As we sat there enjoying this activity we suddenly heard glass breaking and immediately following a very angry adult voice demanding who did it. We were at least 100 feet from the scene of the crime, but we all grabbed our marbles and ran so as not to be a suspect.

When you use chastisement as a management tool, no one admits to the wrongdoing and no one will step up to offer remedies to begin repairing the damage. Berating someone for their mistakes will only make them angry. Anger is a mind-dominant emotion that leaves little room for creative thought to resolve issues and move beyond the incident. Hence, chastisement is not a conducive tool for finding a solution to a problem.

The third reason involves the Peter Principle, which states that we all rise in an organization until we reach a level of incompetence. I know a person who manages the building of warships. This person creates a working environment where there is a free and open exchange of ideas. If one team member errs is falling behind schedule, others step up and volunteer to help. This person learned early in his career that no good ever comes from using the drama of chastisement. The only way to avoid the Peter Principle is to use the collective intellect of your team to recognize, make others aware of, and resolve issues. The chastiser’s team members won’t purposely torpedo his or her project, but they won’t save he or she either.

There are as many ways to motivate your team as there are grains of sand at the beach. Chastisement is only one. Using chastisement demonstrates to others that you like to abuse your authority and that you have a limited imagination.

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