We vs. They
Let's talk about pet peeves for a moment.
We all have them. I'm not talking about the silly people who sing the wrong lyrics to songs I know by heart, the crazies who wear their sunglasses on top of their head, indoors (for hours) or the maniacs who back their cars into parking spaces. I'm talking about pet peeves as it relates to the workplace. For me, there's a simple litmus test of employee engagement that comes down to two simple words - "we" and "they".
We've all been there. You're at the counter placing your lunch order, telling the waiter what you want for dinner or checking out at the retail store and you have a special request or a substitution or some special request and you hear something like this, "they won't let you do that" or "they are going to charge you for that" or "they don't allow us to do that".
[insert nails on chalkboard here]
They. Who exactly is they? Management? Your Team Lead? The owner? The "man"? Listen, I get it. You're working this job to make ends meet or to get through school, but let's get a little more involved here. I understand that there are rules and sometimes things simply can't be done, but "we" sounds so much different. "We aren't able to accommodate that request because..." or "we are going to charge you an additional $1.00 for the guacamole on your taco salad, will that be okay?" or "unfortunately we no longer offer free shipping to that location, because..."
Has a different ring to it, right? They sounds so cold, so disconnected and well, not very engaging. They told me the rules and now I'm passing along what they said to you, the customer. On the other hand, we sounds committed and bought into the program. We sounds engaging. We doesn't have to mean that you agree with the rules, the policy or the direction, but we tells others you're committed to the cause. We doesn't sound like finger-pointing. The end result is likely going to be the same, but the level of engagement is completely different.
And don't think this only applies to fast food establishments, retail outlets and customer service jobs. This is alive and well in the corporate world as well. How many tough conversations have started something like this, "So, Bob, management wanted me to talk to you about your performance" or "Well, Sally, the boss told me that I need to write you up for being late"? But that's another blog post for another day.
I'll end with a solid example of employee engagement from the classic movie, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". Brad is a young manager, committed to the cause and clearly engaged in the business.
Let's be like Brad.