Advancing shame competence to transform individuals, teams, & organizations

We create evidence-based tools to facilitate constructive engagement with shame in professional organizations and beyond.

Our focus areas


We examine the nature, impacts, and prevalence of shame in professional settings.


We provide cross-sector training in shame competence, including for for policing, healthcare, & social services.


We partner with artists to create mediums that invite conversation about shame.

Why do we study and work with shame?

Shame is a negative self-conscious emotion that occurs when we feel inadequate,  flawed, or unworthy. It makes us feel negatively judged by--or less than--others.

Shame is the 'master emotion.'

Shame evolved for a reason: we need it in a functioning society, and it regulates our social behaviors in meaningful ways. Shame is an emotion to be engaged with, not avoided or denied.

Shame can be destructive.

Despite its prosocial potential, shame can fuel intrapersonal distress, impair relationships, undermine psychological safety, and reinforce inequity. These tendencies create significant challenges within organizations, especially when shame is wielded as a tool to reinforce hierarchies, exert power, or control others.

Shame can be hidden behind challenging behaviors.

Shame is painful and itself taboo. Accordingly, people engage in behaviors to avoid or repress it, including withdrawing, blaming, attacking, and self-harm. These behaviors may drive intrapersonal distress,  interfere with relationships, and provoke defensive responses from others. 

Shame is a distributed emotion.

Shame is a uniquely individualized emotion: no two people will experience it in the same way. However, its presence and effects are found throughout an organization: in relationships, in teams, in the culture, and in the practices, policies, and material conditions that form its structure.

Its presence must be addressed at each of these levels.

Addressing the role of shame in organizations requires nuance, expertise, empathy, and evidence. It requires shame competence.

We leverage years of experience studying, teaching about, and engaging with shame--as scholars and as people--to bring evidence-based Shame Competence Training to organizations.

What is shame competence? 

Shame Competence is a set of skills, principles, and practices that can be learned by individuals and applied throughout an organization. Shame competence attends to the distributed nature of shame by building skills at the intrapersonal and relational levels and instilling specific practices, policies, and material conditions at the institutional level. 

What can shame competent people do?

People who are shame competent are able to recognize, constructively engage with, and avoid inducing shame while mitigating its destructive potential and leveraging its prosocial potential within individuals, teams, and organizations. 

In essence, shame competence changes the way we view ourselves and the world around us. 

How does shame competence change the way we view the world?

Shame competence provides a perspective that helps us recognize shame, identify the hidden behaviors it drives, and adjust our responses to those behaviors. It equips us with the ability to proactively support individuals experiencing shame (including ourselves) and to avoid shaming others. Finally, it asks us to dismantle and rebuild institutional structures that propagate its destructive potential.

Explore our training resources to see how we are bringing shame competence to organizations

Learn about the research we're doing to better understand shame and its impacts

Get to know us!

The Shame Lab is 3+ years in the making. Learn about who we are, how we started, and why we are so passionate about our work.
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