Hiding behind the corporate “we”
A question popped up in my Business Serenity Facebook group the other day…
Why do so many entrepreneurs refer to themselves as “we” on their websites, in correspondence or when talking about their business, even if they are a sole trader?
What does the law say?
This is a very interesting question. Legally speaking there is no right or wrong in the matter. Even if you are a sole trader, you may feel that you are speaking on behalf of family members, VAs and others who assist you in your work and that you consider to be part of your business.
There is a line that needs to be drawn in the sand here – if you were a sole trader doing it alone, and you specifically created the impression in a client that you had a team working with you, that could certainly be misleading and get you into trouble – particularly, for example, if you became ill and were unable to complete work by a deadline, and you had used “we” to give the impression that there were others ready to ensure your commitment was fulfilled even if you could not do it personally… but in general, I think it is simply a matter of comfort and personal preference.
For me, the real question is,
WHY do we do it?
In many cases, I think, it is is simply a hard habit to break – particularly for those who have started out in the corporate world.
It is very common for lawyers, for example, to use “we” because it gives them the weight of authority – the solidity and moral support of having a firm behind them. It also has echoes of the royal “we” (“We are not amused” – Queen Victoria) which once again conveys authority – the professional mask of someone who is “higher up the food chain”.
When I went into business for myself I started to notice that I would use “I” wherever I felt comfortable, and use “we” wherever what I was writing made me feel insecure, scared, on shaky ground.
I made the commitment then never to use “we” unless I was specifically writing on behalf of myself and others. This makes me more conscious of what I am writing, because in order to use “I”, I have to ensure that everything I write is in alignment with my actual values and vision, and that I am personally prepared to stand behind it.
There may be practical reasons for using “we” in your business correspondence, but I urge you to question why you do it, and to discover whether the practice is not a subtle way for you to hide instead of fearlessly shining and proudly standing in your own truth!