Monday, September 7, 2009

Plagued by "They" and "Everyone"

There are a couple of new Chevy commercials out right now with Howie Long that I have a love-hate relationship with – have you seen the “They” and “Everyone” parodies? Not that I’m trying to sell you a Chevy, but check these out…

I love them (and hate them) because they are so representative of society at large and the contagious nature of misinformation … especially bad or negative misinformation. I often feel plagued by this at work. One person will have a problem with a new policy or idea that management puts out (something that 95% of the staff are happy with or at least neutral about) and some how this one person’s water-cooler complaining turns into a terrified manager sitting in my office that “everyone” is upset about this new change and “they” are all complaining about it.

But when you try to track down the actual unhappy people – the “they” and “everyone” who started the global negativity – so that you can address their issues and try to put them at ease with the change and the reasons behind it, you can’t actually find them. As you try and track it back, everyone you talk to says, well I don’t feel that way myself, I’m just passing along how so-and-so felt. But when you get to that so-and-so, they say the same thing. By the time you get to the end of the line, one – two at most – people actually had a problem, but they caused such a stir about it, it turned into “everyone feels that way.”

I’ve seen it in the media, in workplaces, in churches – and what’s most unfortunate is that this very small number of very loud naysayers prevent organizations from making the right, necessary changes toward progress for fear of the “they” and “everyone” that are misrepresented as a majority – they are not.

Why doesn’t the same hold true with positive messages? Consider this dream sequence … an organization makes a decision to cut all their benefits in half and the one or two people who think that it was a good idea start a water-cooler stir that permeates the whole staff and before you know it “everyone” thinks it is a great idea to cut benefits and “they” are very happy with management’s decision… and then we wake up.

The solution? Next time complains to you about something that 1) you don’t actually have a problem with and 2) you do not have the power or authority to change, direct him or her to the person empowered to address it and LET IT DROP. Don’t contribute to the exponential growth of “they” and “everyone” – be a part of the solution by not perpetuating the gossip. Better yet, if you're happy with the decisions or changes, don't keep it a secret and allow people to assume the opposite simply because of the company you keep at the water cooler.

1 comment:

tracey said...

great post lauren - this could be a sermon. : )