I hear this all the time. In organizations, on the street, coffee shops, stores, and seems like always at the airport! I was waiting on my baggage the other day at the airport, and overheard a conversation between several airport employees, who were griping about a number of things wrong with the company they work for. Their conversation was centered around "I can't believe THEY decided to make that decision.... they are asking us to show up early but they don't understand. I can't wait to tell them what I think. Maybe then they will give us a chance to succeed. I really deserve a raise but THEY are holding me back....." And the list goes on.
Who is They?
We've all experienced this. You hear it all the time.... "they" don't want me to get a promotion. "they're" the reason the project is failing. It would have worked if "they" wouldn't have messed things up. It wasn't my fault- "they" were supposed to take care of that. "They" can figure it out because I don't care anymore.
As leaders, most of the time, we are the "they." And we need to constantly be aware that the idea of "we" and "me" instead of "they" should be our compass. Passing the buck to an unknown entity like "they" just causes confusion and frustration in an organization. It's easy to put all the blame on "them" because "they" don't have a name or face or personal connection. The onus is on US, WE and ME, not THEM or THEY, whoever those folks might be.....
Possessive language is what you are looking for on your team, with your project, and in your company. Challenge your team to get rid of the "they" mentality. From the top to the bottom. It starts with you setting the tone. So next time you have the urge to say "they", change it to "us." All of the sudden, the rules change.