So our scrum team was talking this morning about some mega screw ups that one team continues to make but could apply in any situation and how we could bring transparency and accountability for the entire department. We have around 80 people including documentation, QA, development, product management, technical operations so teams are very isolated but can easily be the victim of another person or other team that breaks a build, doesn't look for dependencies and breaks your code, etc.

I was deemed abnormal, no disagreement, because I said that if I messed something up and caused others pain then I want to be called out because how will I know and learn if I don't get told and am accountable to a group to do better. I said we should have a public shaming where offenders get called out to explain their side of the problem and give them a chance to own it and say what they will do about the problem. I love this idea because often people are so uncomfortable with confrontation that even when there is a specific person in mind, they will feel like they have to use generic descriptions or try to hide behind anonymity meanwhile the person who is really the problem may be in denial, or may not realize they are the reason for the discussion and bad behavior goes unchanged and no one is accountable. It's not about being rude or hurting feelings, it's about everyone trying to do what is best to produce the best software for your clients.

This team that causes everyone else problems, always, is somewhat protected by their manager who really is feeding them the terrible plans to implement "because this worked at my last job" so even though small discussions are had, it quickly is swept aside and passed off as someone else's problem. Like I said though, it could be any somewhat serious or continuing problem. Everyone outside of their team spends so much time complaining about how terrible they are and it has really killed morale. The biggest complaint I have found against public shaming in the programming world is that it hurts morale but isn't it better to curb the problem, address it, and be accountable when the problem occurs and deal with hurt feelings than to let stuff fester and continue to grow as more problems are caused with no avenue to drive ownership?

If I am called out for a bug that caused 200 calls from angry customers, should I not be asked to explain my understanding of what I did wrong and how I am going to fix it and finally, what I am going to do to make sure it doesn't happen again? There might be someone in that group of 80 that says "I had that same problem 5 years ago and here is what I did to fix the code and learning X area in Y framework really helped me understand what I did wrong and the right way to do it" but without an audience of brilliant minds who have all screwed up, you have to handle it on your own. The comradery that I have with the person who wasn't involved but could help me was created which can be very positive.

I'm curious about if any of you have had this type of process at your work and if you liked it, hated it, etc. and ultimately if it seemed to be effective in solving problems.

  • I can't answer as the question has been closed, but some things that jump out. Teams are isolated Until you grasp that there is a greater good, then a culture of animosity will continue - especially as you deem one team to be at fault. Problem ownership If the person blindly created the problem, what possibly makes you think they are best placed to fix it on their own Feelings Criticism hurts. Go read the seminal "How to win friends and influence people" or Google it. Management The elephant in the room is the failing manager. I'd suggest you find a way deal with that.
    – Robbie Dee
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 10:44

1 Answer 1


The answer @gnat pointed to considers public shaming as "amateurish". I'd go a step further and even call it harmful.

There are a million things to be said about your situation and way more ways for me to guess what really is going wrong there, however, there is one fundamental aspect that public shaming has: In a scenario in which you can point to single people for blaming, no one is safe any longer.

This may sound simple, but the impacts are enormous. Some people may straight out leave (and I'd completely understand that!), but with a guarantee everyone will try his or her hardest to not be blamed. And do not fall into the trap here: not getting blamed isn't the same thing as producing quality software - not at all!

Public shaming was used in medieval times as a means to ensure conformism. As we have seen time and time again, conformism is not something to strive for in the 21st century. It hinders your innovation (you have to be able to make mistakes for that - and getting blamed stands in the way of that), it doesn't help you to set yourself apart from the competition, etc.

Finally, you should think carefully about the work climate you are producing. In a climate of fear of being blamed, you will not get a productive environment. I have been in companies where there wasn't even a public notion of shaming, but management did not address that shaming was happening on a daily basis. None of these companies ever got anything decent done and working there is bizarre to say the least. Everything you do, you only do after you have ensured there is someone else to blame it to!

In essence: Public shaming leads to a climate in which the employees of the company are up against each other. This is a recipe for failure considering that everyone in the company should strive for the same goals and work together to achieve them.

  • 1
    "I'm not saying it's your fault. I'm saying we're blaming you."
    – KlaymenDK
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 8:10
  • 1
    Doesn't matter whether you call it fault or blame. You are shining a spotlight on a person for a mistake they made either way.
    – Frank
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 8:21

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.