One big addy family
Companies, particularly in the ad industry, love to talk about working together like a family. It’s become a shorthand for attempting to sound cool, progressive, relaxed, and open. One big fun group where everyone loves and supports everyone else.
In fact, family dynamics are often pretty far from relaxed. My sister once made my mum cry by taking a joke about who the favourite child was a bit too far.
While our family are among those we love the most, they can also upset us the most. You can choose your friends, but families are full of conflicting personalities that don’t always get along. They’re usually the people we argue with, or tensely avoid arguing with by biting our tongues and treading on eggshells. And because we care about them, we care a lot when there’s a problem.
So of course, every office is like a family. You spend a significant amount of your life there, you haven’t chosen all your colleagues and you care about delivering good work. It’s the perfect setting for family dynamics to come into play. Ever had a meeting where you left feeling utterly frustrated at how you and your colleague just couldn’t seem to see where the other was coming from? Sound a little like a conversation with your parents as a teenager where they just don’t understand you? Or is that just me? I’m confident I’m not the only one who has stormed off to the pub at the end of a difficult day to have a moan over a glass of wine because I was struggling to work with someone in a productive way.
The good news is, being part of a family means we have a lot of diverse and challenging points of view and we’re comfortable being ourselves with each other. The bad news? It’s easy to fall into the childlike habit of pointing the finger whenever an issue arises.
To work in a more constructive and supportive environment, we all need to take responsibility for our own actions. Instead of passing blame, looking inside ourselves is the best way to get to the root of the problem. So no more storming off to the pub for a moan.*
The thing is, it’s much harder to think about who we are than it is to moan about who someone else is. When we fail at something, we all have a natural tendency to protect our self-esteem and attribute the fault to someone else or to external factors. For example, if we miss a deadline, it’s due to our manager’s poor time allocation or because we’re having an off day. Equally, if we’re having a tense exchange of words, we’re more likely to see it as evidence of our own desire to create good work, whereas the other party is solely driven by their love of just being an asshole.
This stops us from overcoming the real cause of the problem, which is usually not just one person’s fault. Uncovering the true reason requires us to step away from the behaviour we exhibited growing up within our families. Instead, we need to develop more emotional maturity to probe our own personalities and discover what may be influencing our actions.
So how about we stop behaving like a family at work? Even though an office might mimic a family set-up, there’s no need to revert to those roles. If we started taking more responsibility for our own feelings and actions, we might just behave more like collaborative individuals.
*I’m definitely still going to have a moan at the pub, closely followed by some careful introspection.