They Vs. We
I’m going to start this blog post with a story. Please stay with me for a minute.
I went to the grocery store last week to buy groceries as one does. While I was there, I cleared the meat counter out of an item.
After she packaged up my order, the woman behind the counter asked if I’d like anything else. She seemed pretty grumpy and unhappy to be there. I made the lame joke that “I’d leave some for other shoppers“ and two things happened:
- She didn’t find my bad joke funny.
- She responded “They probably have more in the back.“
The joke wasn’t funny but her use of they got me thinking.
Who are “They“?
Now, she could have been referring to a different team that is in charge of stocking the meat counter… I don’t know. From her manner, I assumed by “they“ she meant the grocery store company.
This got me thinking about why she didn’t say “_we_” instead.
|“_We_” implies that you’re one of the team. The goals of the team are your goals. The risks the team faces are your risks. You’re engaged. ||“They“ implies you’re not connected to the team. You’re an outsider who isn’t committed.|
### When is it “_We_” or “They“?
When I’ve joined a new team, I’ve noticed that I start with “you“ or “they“ and then after some period of time start saying “_we_”. I’ve never thought about how long the time is. It’s probably been somewhere between a couple of weeks and a couple of months. A lot of this is due to the people on the team and its leadership. They got me engaged and made me feel like a critical part of the “_we_”.
When I joined HMB, it only took me a couple of weeks (at the most) to make the transition. Some of this was due to my bosses but a whole lot more was due to the attitudes of the entire team. Everyone was thinking about the “_we_” in most everything they did. Thinking about this now, I can see how priceless it was and is.
That may not be the case for the woman at the grocery store. Maybe she hates her job but it’s the only way she can pay the bills. Maybe her leaders and team are failing her.
I’ve got some thoughts about how a team can improve this situation. I’ll save those for the next post.
What about you? How long has it taken you to go from “they“ to “_we_” at your current job? How about previous jobs? What was the main factor in that duration?