I was listening to some of my recruiters talk to candidates the other day. I like to do that from time to time. You learn a lot about your team, your jobs, your hiring managers, and your engagement levels.
One of the things I overheard was something like, “I’m going to tell you about the benefits that “MY” company offers.” There was another conversation where someone used “our,” “I’m going to tell you about the benefits that “OUR” company offers”.
It seems like a small difference, right? Both are positive, for sure.
I will tell you, as a leader, “my company” brings me to tears. The one thing I consistently hear from senior executives is, “I can get my team to care about this company the same way I do”. It’s a very common issue that comes up all the time. How do we get employees to take ownership when they don’t have ‘real’ ownership?
It’s a cop-out and too easy to say, “oh, just give them some real ownership”! Having an employee-owned company isn’t simple or easy. It’s very complex.
Using “My company” says to me that this employee is 100% in. Onboard. Wearing the logo! Reppin the gear! It’s not that saying “our company” doesn’t say that, but “my company” definitely says that!
It’s similar to when you hire a new employee from a competitor, and it takes some time to get them away from “we” vs. “them” vs. “you guys,” etc. “So, I know ‘you guys’ do it this way….” Oh, you mean “us guys,” right!? You’re now on the team. You’re not a ‘them.’ You are a ‘we’!
Sometimes some of the biggest changes we make to culture are simple changes in our own language and what those changes end up meaning to all those stakeholders in an organization.
Similar to Gregg, I am not here to litigate verbiage, but I completely agree it should be possessive. I am an “Our/We” person because that verbiage helps foster a team dynamic and I am all about team. I also know I sounded like an absolute tool back in college when I worked as a bouncer and referred to the place as “my bar”. The thought of me at that age gives me chills, but I guess that reaction is a sign of personal growth.
Oddly enough, when I moved into a management role at that establishment after a couple years of checking IDs, breaking up fights, and eventually slinging drinks, I got some perspective that stuck with me. Working in a college bar is usually something that teaches you more of what not to do rather than what to do, at least in my experience. One morning, after I closed the place the night before, I got a call from the owner asking me to come out to the restaurant ASAP. We did a walkthrough and he nitpicked every single thing that was wrong or could have been done better the night before when we closed. I was the one that said the staff could go, so that was on me. In that moment he turned to me and said, “Zach, you need to stop acting like a ****ing employee and start acting like an owner.” The light bulb clicked on for me as I grabbed a mop bucket to redo the floors and clean several other things on 3 hours of sleep. People always say you should take pride in your work, but taking ownership of your work is pride on steroids and those are the people you want on your team.
I am happy with either “MY” or “OUR” as opposed to “YOUR”. I’ve experienced too many times where even managers (sometimes longer-tenured than me), refer to the organization as “YOUR” company. “Whatever ‘you guys’ want to do!” or “However ‘you guys’ want to handle it” . So getting employees to live “ownership” and “belonging” in some meaningful way is much more important to me that the term used to qualify the ownership. But it’s great that companies that the “MY” or “OUR” dilemma.