The Power of “We”

America is an “I” country. I did this, I’m good at that. Me, me, ME! Everyone wants to talk about what they know, and oneself is the limit to what one can ever know, really. And how many of us REALLY know ourselves? Very few, I would say. So how helpful is this self-focus, anyway?

In order to get a job, you have to talk about what your experience is, you have to sell yourself, puff up your contributions to the team, really dig into the marketing of you. This is, quite possibly, the least comfortable thing I can think of having to do. And I believe this expectation of shameless self-promotion has escalated so much in the job market over the last ten years or so, that it’s nearly impossible to get a job without slipping from marketing into the white lie category here and there; it’s basically incentivized. I’m not sure whether this is a common autistic trait or whether it is just me, but talking about my accomplishments independent of others is an enormous struggle.

On any performance self-reviews, I completely stress out and procrastinate severely, often to the point of pacing around the house the day before it is due. Even if I understand what I have contributed to the whole set of department accomplishments for the year, it is impossible for me to pick out what I was able to accomplish independently. All our work is co-dependent, and not in a bad way. Sure, I could come up with some metrics about how much data I processed or how many client support tickets I helped to find the root cause on, but none of it would be possible without others testing or executing or answering the questions I posed to get from point A to point B. I know this is true for everyone as we are all interdependent with others; I would just ALWAYS default to sharing credit, or even straight up giving credit to others whenever possible. Wait, isn’t that a leadership trait? 🤔

This is also true whenever I open up my resume to tinker with it, or rewrite it completely. The truth is, I have some mad skills, and some things I don’t do as well. Since my role in the department and my department’s role in the company are multidisciplinary, I am never actually completing a task or project on my own. I can say what I have contributed to without lying or fudging the facts, but did I singlehandedly do XYZ? Probably not. We accomplished things. We made progress. We worked together.

Sharing credit should be seen as a positive attribute. I am most proud of myself when I am part of a successful team activity, not when I do something on my own. And most people want to be recognized as part of a successful team, even if they might also want to be seen for their individual contributions as well. The best scenario would be for the recognition to go first to the “we,” and then to each of the “I’s.”

The real reason “we” is so important is that it is inspiring. People want to act in service of others. If “we” are tackling a problem together, each of us is less likely to call it quits before the problem is resolved. We don’t want to let the other down! Not everyone is motivated by competition, but I believe everyone is motivated by the “we.”

As I mentioned in a recent post, I just traveled via air for the first time in nearly two years recently. I was a bit covid-nervous. My family and I have done so much for the last 18 months, altering many of our routines and sacrificing for our own and others’ safety. I was fearful that other people in the airport or worse, on the plane, would not be taking the rules seriously and would not follow the mask instructions. But I was pleasantly surprised, primarily with the flight attendants and the pilots.

First, the announcement was that there was a mask mandate on the plane and they would be relying on each of us to comply, with the exception of when we were actively eating or drinking. Fair enough. Then, they announced that if they had to remind someone more than twice to comply with this policy, they would be blacklisted from the airline for the remaining duration of the pandemic. Woohoo, nice; now we’re getting somewhere. Then the pilot came on to say that while they all understand people not being excited about it, the airline staff also has to wear their masks, all day, sometimes for 16 hours a day, and that if they can do it, they would appreciate our working together, as a team, to lower the risk for all of us by complying with the mask rules and keeping them on for the duration of the 5 hour flight.

I did not witness one violation. That’s the power of “we.”

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