Team? Family? Squad? Finding the Best Analogy for Coworkership

How should you think about your relationships with your coworkers?

Everyone has their favorite metaphor.

Some people think of employees as “family.” This has the advantage of creating (if done right) an. But it also isn’t fully honest. Unlike in families, dismissal/firing is a part of the life of a workplace.

Some people have responded to the familiar “your team is a family” line of thinking by instead arguing that we ought to think of our employees as if they’re members of a sports team (or in the case of those like Jocko Willink, a military unit). In a sports team lineup, as in business, it’s customary to get rid of bad players and bring on good ones.

What I like about the sports team or military analogies is that they re-center the group upon the group’s purpose. As much as I like my coworkers, I am not ultimately driving in to work every morning for them. I’m driving into work every morning to accomplish a mission – and I do believe that my coworkers will be and should be the ones to accomplish that mission with me.

But still the “team” people are missing something. Sure, we replace players in soccer, as on a team. But often the goal is so much more significant (and the bonds therefore so much closer) than on a soccer team.

So I have a modest proposal. It’s certainly not the core solution, but perhaps it’s one more good piece in the puzzle: why don’t we treat coworkers as co-adventurers?

As in all adventures, co-adventures are free to come and go. As fellow travelers and helpers, they can have a range in meaning from closest comrade to incidental companion.

Remember back to your favorite adventure stories. Co-adventurers share a deeper bond than most, of which coworkership is definitely a shadow. Coworkers, like companions, can be dropped, but not without great cause and pain.

I rather like the idea of framing my coworkers as co-adventurers. But there’s truth in all of these frames. I’ll continue to pull on multiple metaphors and sources in my own experience of work – because work is just complex and interesting enough to resist categorization.

Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

Intellectual Credit: Patty McCord of Netflix (Author of Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility) and Simon Sinek (Author of Leaders Eat Last) as well as my own CEO and Isaac Morehouse

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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