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Using Pronouns

This may not be very technical, but hopefully it may generate some discussion and provide some insight.

Pronouns can be very enlightening about our attitudes towards work.   How long do you work for a company before you start thinking of the company as “we” instead of “they?”   Consider:   We are the number 1 producer of product X.   Vs.   They are the number 1 producer of X.   Do you ever make that pronoun switch?   What does it mean if you switch back from “we” to “they?”    What does it mean if you never make the switch?   Are you even aware of which one you use?

The dynamics with interpersonal relationships are also interesting.   Have you ever noticed that a single co –worker will probably say “I” or “my”, or “me” a lot.    A co- worker married or at least in a committed relationship will be much more likely to say “we” even if their partner is not with them.   What should we make of this?  : )

Of course you also get this with team dynamics as well.  A strong team player will frequently refer to “we.”    In this case, “we” probably refers to the team.   We are falling behind and need to catch up.   In a strong team, “I” rarely makes an appearance.    Hopefully, “you” is scarce as well.

I have also noticed something interesting with my wife that I thing is somewhat common.   The switch from “our” or even “mine” to “your” when we get upset about something.   I notice “our” dog becoming “your” dog when the dog does something bad.    Is this common?   Does it show up in other areas of life?    Do “our” processes become “your” processes when we feel like the processes don’t work?   Would such switches be a Freudian slip, malicious behavior, or a harmless word game?   Are we even of it when we make such switches?

So your use of pronouns can be used gauge the ties you feel towards your employer, your team, and your partner.    Here are some of my thoughts:

·        When your employer becomes “we” as in “We have a good work environment” instead of “They have a good work environment”, you finally feel like you are part of the corporate culture.
·        Should you go back to thinking of your employer as “they”, you may be feeling a little disenfranchised or disconnected.   Consider, “They have a strong business model” instead of “We have a strong business model”
·        If you never think of the company as “we,” are you perpetually disconnected looking in on your co-workers from the outside?
·        When you meet someone and they keep referring to “We went to the movies over the weekend”, chances are that person is married.    If your new friend states that “I went to the movies over the weekend,” you may have a new single friend.
·        When your team mates start referring to “we” as in “We have a good sense of the project timelines”, you probably have a strong team.   As long as you are still thinking in terms of “I think I know what needs to be done”, your team probably hasn’t truly formed yet.  Or maybe it is still “storming”
These are not hard and fast rules.   These are probably not even generally guidelines.   These are simple observations that I have made that seem to be true often.

Without a doubt there are many exceptions.   Most of us choose our pronouns without even thinking about it.   If we start thinking about it too much, we will probably throw the whole system out of balance, but a little self reflection is a good thing.

Posted on Saturday, September 20, 2008 10:03 PM | Back to top

Comments on this post: Pronouns

# re: Pronouns
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Other uses to consider:
1. The boss uses "we" (also known as the "Royal We"), as in "we need to do this", when he really means "you need to do this". But managers get angry when you use "we" when including them. Ironic...
2. People who are dissatisfied with their jobs or are looking for another job usually change back to "they" when talking about thier teams or decisions that were made.
3. Most people also use "they" when they are describing a conflict with another person.
Left by Scott Miller on Sep 21, 2008 9:29 AM

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