Mind your metaphors: We’re a team, not a family

Our staff would say: “We’re a family. We’re a family.” And I’ve actually said directly to everyone in all-staff meetings: “We’re not a family, because in a family you never can fire somebody like your Uncle Joe. You just can’t. You have to put up with him because he’s family. In an organization, if someone is taking the organization down, we can’t accept that because the organization is bigger than any one of us.”

So I’ve said to them that the analogy that best suits us is, “We’re a team,” and in a team, everybody’s got a role to play. And the team wins when everybody plays their roles to their best ability. The other thing that’s different in a team is that people understand the concept of roles. So if you’re the manager, you have a job to do as a manager. No one, generally speaking, resents the fact that you have authority because they understand that it comes with the role of a manager and that teams need managers. They don’t manage themselves.

But in a family, it is about power. You know, Mom or Dad has the power, and I think the dynamic that often plays out in a workplace is that people project all of their parental stuff. And I remember a job where I actually had to say to my team: “I am not your mother. I’m the division director here. I have a job to do. You have a job to do.”

via NYTimes.com.

2 thoughts on “Mind your metaphors: We’re a team, not a family

  1. Spot on! One of the more irritating aspects of your former institution: the constant appeals to “the Reinhardt family.” (Au contraire, it’s a place of work, with all that that entails!)

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