The Definition of ‘We’

The open house event was over and the members of the department slowly made their way to clean up the decorations and the food.  The event had been a success.  Hundreds of people from the company came to visit and comment on the look of the department.  Feedback was gathered, prizes offered, and there was lots of conversation.  More importantly, the department leadership was pleased.

One member of the leadership made sure she walked around and told people how well they did and how pleased she was with their work.  Another took a slightly different tack.  She was pleased with what had transpired, but said it this way.  “We did a wonderful job.”


To the members of the committee who were tasked with planning this, the only participation they remembered the executive having was to assign it to them and to receive updates.  She would nod assent and then let them go on their way.  There wasn’t much lifting and carrying involved with giving a nod and approving a budget.  She did make sure, however, to be there for the event, happily accepting compliments for doing such a wonderful job.

To members of the department who had seen her meteoric rise up the ranks, her comment was not a surprise.  She had the reputation of incorporating anything good anyone did into her own portfolio.  Nobody would be surprised if she had a throw down with Al Gore over who invented the internet.  To those who had helped her, saw her rise, and saw her leave them unceremoniously behind with more work and no promotion, the behavior was typical.  Was it any wonder that, short of being outright ordered to do something, nobody in the department wanted to give their best effort and just did what they had to in order not to be fired?   They were tired of helping her career when she didn’t reciprocate.

The executive in this story once said to her department, “Your development is your own responsibility”.  To a point, I will agree with that statement.  However, you cannot move up without the help of those above you.  They have to be willing to give you that opportunity to rise to the next level, and reward you with that promotion (and raise…I have seen too many so called ‘promotions’ where cheap companies give no raises) based on your performance.   That manager sets up a duality.  They are willing to trumpet their accomplishments, even if they had no part in them whatsoever, but want to keep you out of the spotlight entirely.  When this happens, no amount of work their people do, no amount of effort their people expend, will ever be enough.  The manager needs their people where they are because the manager wants to grab the glory of what their people have done.  Without their worker bees, they are nothing.  Sadly, the bad manage realizes this and has no trouble adjusting their conscience to keeping their down.

Part of what makes a good manager a good manger is the fact that they want to see their people succeed.  They don’t look to share credit when it isn’t due, but rather give credit wholeheartedly to their people.  The good manager knows their reward is that they will be recognized as having a highly motivated team who always delivers their best.  Wise company executives will want this person and their gifts motivating larger and larger teams. The good manager doesn’t have to steal the credit.  They earn it legitimately by enhancing their own people.

The good manager knows that they don’t have to expand or contort the definition of the word ‘we’.  They know that they will be told time and time again, “I couldn’t have done it without you”.

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