Guilt: a noun to describe the fact of having committed a specified or implied offence; or the feeling of having done wrong.
Guilty: an adjective to suggest culpable of or responsible for a wrong; conscious of or affected by guilt; having committed a specified offence.
As a psychotherapist and coach in my private practice rooms I tend to berate my clients a little about feeling guilty, ashamed or embarrassed… Why? It’s simple, because I like to challenge people on the concept that shame, embarrassment and guilt are in fact the three great self-induced emotions!
Think about it – who really tells you to feel guilty or ashamed or embarrassed? It’s that little value voice in our heads and it makes a decision that we ‘should’ feel something around the current experience.
But hey not is all lost. Did you know that a study has found that people prone to feeling guilty are also found to be some of the hardest workers in the company? And there is even more good news… Guilty individuals tend to have a higher standard of ethical practice and are hence less likely to take advantage of their position of office and of others with whom they work.
The original source of this data came from research by Drs Scott S. Wiltermuth and Taya R. Cohen titled: “I’d only let you down”: Guilt proneness and the avoidance of harmful interdependence.
In this study Wilermuth and Chen undertook five separate studies looking at the role of guilt and tested the affects it has on work performance, amongst other life roles as well. Guilt prone employees make effective leaders “because of this concern for the impact on their actions on others’ welfare, highly guilt-prone people often outwork their less guilt-prone colleagues, demonstrate more effective leadership and contribute more to the success of the teams and partnerships in which they are involved.”
So there you go - guilt can work for us (and your boss)!