Leadership Wednesdays: Humiliation

Leadership Wednesdays: Humiliation

A boss has been ordered to pay £13,000 compensation to an employee who stole from him.


Because said employee sued him for humiliation.

Employer Simon, somehow thinking we were back in the middle ages, marched employee Mark to the police station with a sign round his neck detailing his crime:


The police let Mark off with a caution, but charged Simon with false imprisonment. The case collapsed, but Mark, perhaps egged on by indignant family and friends, later sued Simon on account of the ‘distress’ he suffered from this very public retribution.

My suspicion that Mark was encouraged by others to sue his boss arises because of this statement reported in the Telegraph article (and doubtless others): “I probably deserved it for what I did, fair enough.”

Elsewhere in his statement, however, he said “I want him to pay for what he’s done.”

So he acknowledges that he took money unlawfully (he says he wasn’t stealing, just taking pay that was owed to him because the boss was too busy to get round to it), and that the punishment fit the crime and yet the result of the punishment was that he didn’t experience regret and repentance, but humiliation and a desire for revenge.

People who are humiliated, especially in front of others, strike back. The commitment they take away is not that they will consider the needs and feelings of others in future, but that they will seek to humiliate the boss at the first possible opportunity.

We don’t know how many meetings Simon had trying talk this through calmly with Mark before resorting to taking the law into his own hands. We don’t know how many times he phoned the police asking them to come to the workplace and help him deal with the matter appropriately. The news-making incident could have been the culmination of weeks of attempts at reasoning, seeking amicable solutions and mediation.

I doubt it, though.

As leaders, we do need to address situations in which someone for whom we are responsible breaks the law of the land or the codes of conduct expected of them, but we need to offer people a way to rectify the situation, as Jesus did with Peter – after Peter’s denial, Jesus let him know that He had seen it, but at the next opportunity, he not only welcomed Peter as a member of the circle of disciples, but entrusted him with a position of great responsibility.

This isn’t to say that we should avoid making people aware of the seriousness of their misdemeanour – Peter certainly felt a great deal of shame after his denial – simply that we should not force them to feel that shame in public. It embarrasses them, it embarrasses onlookers, and it weakens our leadership, as we lose any respect we had formerly had.

3 Comments On This Topic
  1. newsong40
    on Feb 21st at 12:18 pm

    OK, clearly someone can’t count dates properly! I intended this to appear on Wednesday, but since it’s here now – enjoy! 🙂

    • Father Stephen
      on Feb 21st at 2:18 pm

      Oh I’m so glad it really is still Monday, I was beginning to panic.
      But please, just because I’m publically noting your error, don’t sue; pretty please.

      • newsong40
        on Feb 21st at 2:20 pm

        Don’t worry – I’m only mildly embarrassed (and at my own incompetence!) not humiliated by you or anyone else. Glad you didn’t miss coffee morning!


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