It was late at night when I saw this Facebook notification from D. Usually I remove notifications immediately without reading them, reminding myself to set FB notifications off and never follow through with this resolution. But this notification was unusual for two reasons: for one, D doesn’t usually post on Facebook, so this was a rare occasion, which made me recall the fact that we are, actually, Facebook friends. Secondly, this was a shaming post, calling colleagues to avoid working with a particular freelancer. It was the first and only personal shaming post I received so far.

D is a Los Angeles TV producer, running her own independent studio and working relentlessly to bring her content to the viewer. Anyone who is slightly familiar with the Via Dolorosa a TV program needs to go through from pitch to broadcast, knows how hard it is to see the process through for each and every show. Independent producers, small studio owners, work constantly with freelancers. The project, if successful, may take long commitment periods, so once you have your production crew in place, you know you cannot team any of them for the next project you have lined up.

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Obviously, someone who has worked with lots and lots of freelancers and who doesn’t use social media very often, must be outraged to the extent that they will go ahead and publish such a post. Shaming is a dangerous tactic for handling professional problems: it may paint the shamer as a bully, it is likely to backfire and it may make potential business associates think twice before forming a relationship with you.

I had my share of disappointments from hired professionals, in-house as well as swords-for-hire. Up til now I had managed to avoid disputes and I follow an advice I received a long time ago from a wise woman: always give the people you work with the impression they will work with you again. There is a mutual dependency between employer and employee once the project starts: you are booth invested into the process and any status change may harm you both. Situation must be real dire if a producer needs to fire a director in mid production. Such a step carries additional financial costs, threatens the project delivery date and puts the entire project at risk.

Shaming is not just another step in escalating a situation. It is an entire new floor of bad relations. Public relations, that is.

After trying to figure out if D’s shaming post was necessary, my conclusion is categorically NO. There is no call for publicly shaming a freelancer, or anyone, for that matter. There is, of course, no clear border that lies between shaming and a non-shaming rant against a perceived injustice. When a stakeholder in your project acts in a way that threatens the well being of anyone else in the crew, or threatens the project, or is in breach of contract – then there are ways to deal with these situations, non of which include publishing a shaming post on Facebook or Twitter.

Posted by Samuel Miller

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