During the American Civil War, artillery batteries often fired canister shot as a defensive measure against the attacking enemy. In the photo above, canister is the item preserved in plastic on the left and the shell “consisted of a tin cylinder filled with cast-iron or lead shot packed in tiers, with a sawdust filler.”1
In other words, the artillery piece became a giant shotgun. During Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Union crews loaded two canister shells at a time and fired them into the bodies of the advancing Confederate troops with devastating effect and terrifying results. The soldiers not immediately killed would either die later from their wounds or survive with horrifying scars on their bodies.
The Deadly Weapon
Is canister shot still fired today? If so, what type of weapon shoots canister? The mouth and tongue. In the Bible, James 3:6 states, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.”2
Earlier this week I spoke with Eddie who said, “my boss ripped us a new one.” The owner of the construction company was attacking his employees for being slow, inefficient, and lacking motivation. I have known Eddie and his family for over thirty years, and I am familiar with his character and work ethic.
Eddie is a diligent worker, and he was justifiably upset over the attack and accusations. Eddie later spoke to his boss about the tirade, which occur on a frequent basis. The boss said that he knew it was not Eddie, but it was Claude who was the problem. Hey boss! If Claude is the problem, then address Claude and do not “rip a new one” with all the employees!
The Modern Canister Effect
The situation above is the modern canister effect. Instead of having the courage to single out the problem employee and address the issue in private, the boss takes a cowardly approach and yells at everyone. Bosses like this mistakenly believe that personnel issues are resolved by firing canister at everyone. That method is ineffective, striking the innocent with flying shrapnel and creating hate, discontent, and mistrust.
In his book Silent Sentinels, George W. Newton wrote, “The psychological effects of artillery should not be overlooked, especially when troops were forced to endure artillery fire without the ability to move or shoot back.”3 Employees rarely have “the ability to move or shoot back” and if they do, the boss either yells louder or fires them.
You will notice that I did not refer to the owner of the company as a leader. I called him the boss. He does not lead people. He bulldozes, bullies, and threatens. On the other hand, leaders know how to address problem employees without firing canister shot at everyone. Leaders know how to correctly manage the situation without destroying everyone else in the process. Which are you? A boss who fires canister at your employees or a leader providing positive influence in their lives.
Please reach out to me and learn more about how I can provide solutions to help you and your organization overcome the modern canister effect. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or go to my website at www.impactusleadership.com.
1Gregory A. Coco, A Concise Guide to the Artillery at Gettysburg (Orrtanna, PA: Colecraft Industries, 1998), 95
2James 3:6 (New King James Version)
3George W. Newton, Silent Sentinels (New York: Savas Beatie LLC, 2005), 64