Thursday, June 2, 2011

Humiliation as a motivator

I'm not a big fan of seeing someone get yelled at in public. I'm even less of a fan of seeing someone in authority disciplining one of their subordinates in front of their peers. I guess there can be a case made for that, though a lame one.

When I have to put someone on "corrective action" (the politically correct term), I make it a point to do it one on one, in a setting away from their siblings or co-workers. One downside: when the being "corrected" says, "It's not fair! No one else is getting in trouble!" My response is, "How do you know? Is there anyone else here watching this discussion? No? Then they have no idea this. The only way they'll know is if you tell them."

This next story is not one of my finer moments, but it's worth sharing to demonstrate my point.

When I was in the 10th grade, I had a math teacher that would go student to student to collect their homework. And if you didn't have it? She'd make you explain why to the whole class.

I was always good at completing my homework. After I finished it, I'd fold the paper in half and put it in my math book. Any corrected homework would also go back into the math book so I could review it for the next test.

At my house, I often did my homework on the couch. Next to the couch were the newspapers we had for the week. I was also a paper carrier (along with my siblings) during this time, so we always had extra newspapers hanging around.

One night, I finished my homework, put my math book on the couch and went to bed. (Yeah, should have put the book away, I know) The next morning, I discovered that our two poodles had been running around the house and knocked my math book right into the pile of newspapers. My assignments were all mixed up in the newspapers, and of course, I was running late, so I grabbed what I could and took off to school.

When I arrived at my math class, I realized that my homework from the night before was missing. I was mortified! I so didn't want to have to explain to the teacher what happened in front of the class. But sure enough, she did her rounds. When she got to me, she asked, "Where's your homework?"

I started to explain by saying, "Well, you see, we have these two dogs. . ." Before I could say anything else, she interrupted me. "Oh I see. Your dog ate your homework. Is that it?" Everyone in the class started laughing. . .at me. I tried to tell her no, and wanted to tell her what really happened, but she cut me off by saying, "I can't believe you really tried to use that lame excuse." She then moved on to the next student.

For the next several classes, when I walked in, she make some sort of comment about my dogs and keeping my "tasty" homework away from them.

My response? I stopped going to that class. There was only a few more days in the semester. After that, I wouldn't have to see her again. I ended up getting a "D" in the class, from not taking the final exam. As I look back on it, I learned a lot from that teacher, but it wasn't about math.  

1 comment:

  1. At least the experience with that teacher helped you become more empathetic for others. I can completely relate to how you feel in many situations.

    At my first job, I had a boss who enjoyed disciplining people in front of their peers.

    One time I was training a new employee in how to provide customer service over the phone. Instead of correcting her so that the customer could hear, I quietly gave my instructions so the person on the line wouldn't know I was correcting the trainee.

    My boss couldn't hear my advice and came out of her office screaming--and I mean screaming--at me for not doing my job.

    At first I was embarrassed, but later my co-workers and another supervisor noted that my boss was a lunatic.

    Although the people around us might sometimes laugh or stay quiet, they often recognize who's being professional and who isn't.