A recent study shows that Americans are increasingly becoming more individualistic and less group-oriented–even in their use of words:
An analysis of words and phrases in more than 750,000 American books published in the past 50 years finds an emphasis on “I” before “we” — showing growing attention to the individual over the group.
The study, published today in the online journal PLoS One, analyzes how often certain words and phrases appear in written language from year to year. Researchers say it is yet another indication that U.S.society since 1960 has become increasingly focused on the self.
“These trends reflect a sea change in American culture toward more individualism,” says psychologist Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. “That can be both good and bad. Some people have argued that individualism has been on the rise in Western cultures for centuries, but that the increase accelerated after the late 1960s. These results suggest that’s indeed the case.”
One of the key questions that came to my mind was: “How does this affect business owners?”
It is important for business owners to understand that commitment to the organization is not seen as the highest and most lofty goal these days. Gone are the days when a worker would work at the same company his/her entire career. As this study shows, even in the language of our literature, the term “I” has become much more predominant than the term “We” in our culture.
So more than ever before, it is important to make sure that employees buy into the vision of the organization and make it their own. Increasingly in our society workers want to feel like their daily contribution is making a difference to a larger goal.
Thus, it is important for business owners, managers, and CEOs alike to communicate frequently with their workforce about the vision of the organization, the broader social good that the organization is seeking, and how their dedication to the organization can make a difference.
So make sure your employees know how and why they are important to the broader concept of “Us” (i.e. the organization). Help them see why improving themselves individually can also help the organization and society at large. And make sure they see tangible evidence that the organization truly does care about them as an individual.