As a leader, how you communicate matters. When you model positive communication, you not only set an example, but you also set an expectation for how to interact within your organization. What you permit, you promote. It’s vital to take necessary steps to avoid “We/They” behavior and communication.
Quint Studer, the founder of Studer Group says, “One of the most damaging characteristics in a company’s culture is called We/They. It can be a silent killer of both performance and culture. It’s difficult to pinpoint, and without proper training, it can run rampant in your organization without a leader or an owner’s knowledge.”
What Happens in a We/They Culture?
“Well, I wish we could all have raises, but Administration says no,” is a classic example of we/they. All of us have done this at one time or another. This makes our teams like us, but causes a disconnect to senior leaders and the larger organization. Today, we do not allow ourselves to use we/they because it destroys any opportunity for creating a healthy system and culture. Transparency and effective communication help reduce we/they. Transparency is another way of describing what Jim Collins calls “facing the brutal facts.” Effective communication is communication that is accurate and consistent. Eliminating we/they is also achieved by explaining the why.
– Excerpt from Maximize Performance
A We/They culture occurs when someone positions themselves in a positive light at the expense of someone else. This happens when there is a situation that doesn’t have an appealing outcome. So, the leader chooses to place blame, rather than own the situation and work through to a solution. If this is the norm in an organization, people will do this so routinely that it becomes second nature. Communication using We/They breeds distrust in an organization and its leaders. We/They can cause a downward spiral in teamwork. When leaders model this negative method of communication, they give employees permission to do the same. Communicating in this way slowly destroys any positive steps in performance and culture. We/They is counterproductive and is misaligned with what most companies aspire to achieve through their mission, vision, and values.