You have power. A lot. No matter who or where you are in your organization, you have the power to make or break someone — with your words, insinuations, and behavior.

I recently completed a 360-degree interview process on a coaching client who is already a great leader of people. As I sought feedback on her leadership skills, one responder volunteered, “She builds people up. She’s not a ‘shamer.’”

Are there shamers in your workplace? This is what shamers do. They:

  • embarrass others and bring them down 
  • constantly criticize others in public  
  • lead by fear — by intimidating others 
  • throw others under the bus in order to advance themselves 
  • exhibit low self-awareness (or they’d know how unattractive they are as leaders and co-workers, right?)
  • behave like petulant children.

Shaming, however, is a choice. My coaching client chooses to be a builder. She uses words and behaviors that are examples to others on her team and in her organization. This is what builders do. They:

  • find more positive things to say than negative
  • provide constructive feedback while preserving the other person’s dignity
  • praise in public and criticize in private
  • exercise self-control when frustrated
  • create a corporate culture of building people up, modeling behavior that creates even more “builders” in the organization
  • behave like mature adults, particularly in tough situations.

Think about your own workplace. Is it a place of “building” or “shaming”?  What you do – how you behave – contributes to that culture.  Are you a builder? If so, you’re probably also a great influencer and successful. Are you a shamer?  You can change. Even in a workplace where “shaming” is the norm, you can change, influencing change throughout the organization.

You have power. A lot. You can choose to make or break someone — with your words, insinuations, and behavior. What’s your choice?

This is an excerpt from Paulette Ashlin’s book Leading: The Way – Behaviors that Drive Success which outlines the importance of responding to, changing, and improving your behavior to become the best leader you can be.  Find out more at