Shame & Blame.

shame and blame definition red flag professional behaviour

Scroll down or click to read: 1️⃣ Definition 2️⃣ What is shame? 3️⃣ How Blame can stop the discomfort of shame. 4️⃣ Blame and shame makes you feel 5️⃣ How to cope with feelings of shame and blame. 6️⃣ NHS Complaint standards Legislation 7️⃣ Links to ‘Shame and Blame’ articles 8️⃣ Audio version of this article

1️⃣ Shame the Definition

The emotion of Shame is triggered when we do something that we know we should not have done. It’s often an impulsive action to cover up our behaviour and protect our reputations. This impulse dates back to our days in the cave, where unless we followed the rules of the Tribe, we would be evicted into the wilderness. Where we would not survive.

Shame is a survival tool and evolved to ensure the survival of the human race, as shame works:

▶️ to stop people harming anyone they hold near and dear.

▶️ By making a person feel anxious and/or fearful that they will be rejected by the group if they continue to behaviour like this. Ie. Theft, murder, fraud. As the threat of being left to face danger alone and without backup, makes most people behave better in the future.

2️⃣ Why Organisations use shame?

At is’s easier to deflect any uncomfortable feelings of embarrassment, anger and humiliation that arise because of their actions, onto you. Than to accept accountability for their errors. They calm the feelings of shame via use of the mental defence mechanism of justification. By twisting the facts to invent plausible reasons why is was your behaviour that forced them to react in this way.

2️⃣.1️⃣ Shame and Blame Cycle Info-graph.

shame and blame infograph red flag professional behaviour
click on image to enlarge

3️⃣ How Blame can stop the discomfort of shame.

This ability to find fault with your behaviour is known as blame. It is used a a mental ‘shame balm’ to protect their reputation and/or to support their decision not to uphold your complaint.

If they blame you for the event and their mistakes etc, it helps them avoid dealing with the uncomfortable feelings that make them feel ashamed and inadequate. And allow them to justify their actions. Which is why the people who use unreasonable blame and shame, are statistically likely to have the highest levels of unresolved guilt.

⏯ Professional Blame and Shame at work

When the NHS, Regulators or Commissioners suggest that you are in some way responsible for your ‘misery and pain’ because you ignored the advice of a professional. This is Blame and Shame at work. 

⏯ Why do they use blame?

▶️It is an excellent way to deflect from all Organisational accountability as if they are not to blame, then it is not their problem to solve.

▶️ It’s also worth it’s weight in gold as it makes you doubt yourself or your body of facts and more receptive to accepting their advice, treatment decisions etc. They hope the guilt and embarrassment of blame and shame will encourage you to:

▶️ withdraw your complaint.

▶️ Or agree with their treatment decision.

4️⃣ Blame and shame makes you feel:

▶️ Being subjected to unfair criticism can damage your self esteem and/or your self-confidence.

blame and shame funny red flag professional behaviour

You may start to feel as if you are:



▶️ anxious

⏯ To make yourself feel better and to stop the:

▶️ embarrassment

▶️ humiliated and

▶️ to regain a sense of safety.

⏯The next time you are placed in a healthcare situation. You may display behaviour traits that are unusual for you.

▶️ keep others at a distance by being hostile or rejecting them.

▶️ Lose your temper or resort to sarcasm

▶️ become withdrawn

▶️ manipulate the situation to maintain a sense of control.

5️⃣ How to cope with feelings of shame and blame?

shame and blame funny1 red flag professional behaviour from the pen of

▶️ The fact that they are shaming and blaming you, does not mean that you re a bad person. Or that you have done anything to deserve this bad behaviour.

You have the right to safe and dignified treatment. 

▶️ It also does not mean you cannot feel hurt and angry.

▶️ Try to respond rationally, so simply and calmly, whilst maintaining eye contact repeat their comment back. Remember just to use facts and not careful to be exaggerate. ( as exaggeration is their baby. LOL) with something along the lines of

▶️ ‘ Do I understand you correctly that you are saying … “

▶️ Or “from my perspective,”

▶️ “I can see how you might get that idea, but I probably haven’t properly explained that.”

▶️ If you have tried to bring to their attention that their bad behaviour has upset you and they have dismissed your feelings. Instead of getting angry or starting to cry. Let them know that you need a break or even a postponement of the meeting. Don’t go into detail at this stage. Put off making a decision how to tackle this behaviour until you are feeling calmer and are in a safe space.

▶️ Remember, that trying to make you feel ashamed of your ‘alleged’ inadequacies is just another way to control you because they have used taken unfair advantage of the imbalance of power

▶️ In the presence of ‘safe’ witnesses, or the recorded or written word, state that their behaviour is unacceptable and you will not be blamed or shamed.

▶️ If you feel the imbalance of power is placing you at a disadvantage, then to keep as much contact via online meetings and emails.

▶️ If this is not possible, only attend face to face with an advocate or trusted family members and friends present. I would encourage you to firmly ask permission (in writing and before the meeting) to record all meetings and consultations.

▶️ If they refuse permission to record, use the meeting minute template and email it to the meeting chair, complaint handler or clinician, at your earliest opportunity.

▶️ Alway limit their ammunition to shame and/or blame you by checking the accuracy of your healthcare records. Via a Subject Access Request.

▶️ Then, if necessary, Amend the Medical Records. As the more factual your healthcare information. The less Shame&Blame ‘ammunition’ they will be able to fire.

6️⃣ NHS Complaint Standard Legislation.

That is why it is so important, to have a working knowledge of the Parliamentary Legislation designed to make this behaviour unlawful.

7️⃣ Links to ‘Shame and Blame’ articles

▶️ NHS defensive and Blame and Shame culture

8️⃣ Audio version of this article