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“We” vs. “They”
7 August 2007, by , in Rants and Kudos, 3 comments

I was on the phone today with a hotel, confirming my reservations. The reservations agent asked me for my name and then said "Let's see how they have your reservation set up."

"They"?

If I'm calling your hotel, isn't it "we"?

I come across this too frequently when talking to association staffers about what they need to do in the database. I'll often hear things like "…they want…" or "…they have set it up this way…". Maybe I'm overreacting, but if you work in the association, then you're part of a "we," not a "they." And if you really feel like it's us against them, then perhaps you should find another job.

Granted, you may not have power over all decisions, so in some cases "they" might refer to senior management. But more often than not, I think "they" really means the person saying it doesn't feel like they're part of the team. And that's a problem.

What about you? When you refer to the organization that employs you, do you say "we" or "they"?

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3 Comments on "“We” vs. “They”"

Lisa Junker - 8 August 2007 Reply

I definitely agree with you that calling your organization "they" can be a sign of disaffection or lack of team spirit. I think it's also sometimes used to create a sense of camaraderie between a customer service person and an angry customer. "They" are the bad guys, but I will do my best to help you. I've actually been thinking about this issue myself ... because right now I use "we" to refer both to my current association and the one where I worked previously. I'm sure that my former coworkers find it a little annoying when I say "we" about an association where I no longer work! But after seven years there, it's really hard for me not to having a "we" feeling about the very wonderful people there, even as I also have a "we" feeling about the wonderful people here.

Wes Trochlil - 8 August 2007 Reply

Lisa, interesting point about the customer service person. If they were actually trained to do this, I would be appalled. That would be pretty devious.

Lisa Junker - 9 August 2007 Reply

I doubt they're actually trained to do it--I think it's an instinctive human sort of thing. "No, really, I'm on your side. Don't be mad at me, be mad at someone else who isn't here right now." ...

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“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

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Western Arts Alliance

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Western Arts Alliance
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