Just what is the we/they phenomena?
Simply, it is when we are working within an organization and we make ourselves look better at the expense of others. We often do this because we don’t have the appropriate training to do otherwise.
Here is an example from my corporate days:
“Darryl, I am really distressed. I worked harder this year than I have in past years. I met all my deadlines on the projects. I just busted myself to get everything done BUT I got the same raise as everybody else.”
Now being the untrained manager/leader I was probably responded like this,” You know Joe I understand how you feel. If I had my way it wouldn’t be this way at al. But pay raises are out of my hands and in the hands of HR at corporate headquarters.”
Well, I may have made the employee feel better BUT simply I have shifted the responsibility up. I have turned HR into the bad guys at the expenses of creating the we/they phenomena in my own organization. I did this not because I wanted to put down HR, I did it because I didn’t know what else to do.
The we/they phenomena occurs everywhere. Need evidence?
- You get your food at the restaurant and it’s cold. Not me the waiter says, that’s the kitchen’s problem.
- Your computer doesn’t work right. Not me the computer repair guy says, it’s a software issue.
- You car still has the rattle and cough. Not me the mechanic says, must be something they did in the body shop.
- There has been a drop in sales. Not those of us in sales, top management should have predicted this!
The we/they syndrome comes naturally to all of us. However, this phenomena is the antithesis of teamwork. To prevent we/they leaders must step to the plate and show leadership and behaviors that prevent it from occurring. We do this by looking for ways to “manage up”.