Rules Of Engagement

wnylibrarian's picture

Hello Interwebs,


For the most part you can blame my uncle for this, but I cannot dodge full blame either because I am a willing participant who usually agreed with his philosophy.


My uncle, God rest his soul (we lost him earlier this year at the age of 90), would give me some kernels of wisdom over the years that would strike a cord and stick with me. Like many such wits of wisdom some I agreed with, some I still disagree with, and others I thought were in error but later found him to be on target when I got older. Now just for perspective my uncle was the director of human resources for a large corporation. He had also been in the Navy for more than 20 years. He had vast experience on life, people, and how they reacted in most situations.


One of these items that I file under "rules of engagement" is to try, whenever possible, to avoid the possessive anything in the context of a team project or work environment. Social club/organization or office, and he would correct anyone if they tripped over that verbal line. If we are truly a team then we are together as a team. 


Avoid saying things like, Joe's Team, Mary's Department, or My Department. I've found librarians make this mistake often. My Library. My Collection. My Students. My Collection Development Policy.


Examples would be...


"My team is having a meeting regarding this tomorrow."


"Let me check my collection development policy."


"Joe just got hired on Christina's team and will be starting on Monday."


Things to keep in mind are Joe does not belong to Christina. You do not have a collection development policy, but the library has one the board approved. The department is having a meeting that you might be presiding over, but just like Joe they do not belong to you. For librarians in particular you do not have a collection. The collection belongs to the library. You are only the current caretaker/curator of the collection. You might have a private collection at home, but it is not here.


In verbal or email this engagement is the same.


Use, "Our team" or "our department."


"Let me check our library's collection development policy."


"Our library needs weeding in the biography section."


"The power is currently out in the/our library."


"The team can discuss this at our staff meeting."


The point of all this is to keep in mind we are not in possession of certain things. We are stronger when we work together. It is a team problem. It will be a team solution where each member no matter how small brings their talents to the front to resolve the situation.


For managers one cannot say they want to foster team building and leadership within an organization and a few moments later say, "And my department will sending out a memo with more information about Project X later this afternoon." Those two things are operating against each other.


Politicians particularly need to be cognisant of this aspect of language sending mixed signals. They cannot discuss wanting to help the taxpayer, the public, the electorate, and then pontificate "my administration is going to do this" or "my office is going to be issuing new legislation regarding that." If we are indeed all members of a team or community, working to a common goal, then it is "our administration" or "our office is going to be issuing..." because no one owns the entire pie. We all have a membership stake as part of a larger community. Administrations don't last forever. Civil or private. Politicians can be voted out. CEOs can be replaced by boards. Everyone is accountable to someone.


Strong leaders bring everyone together. They do not wedge divide.

Add new comment