Us vs. Them

One of my colleagues and I had a long discussion today about this merger. Any time two competitors come together to create a new company, there is going to be restructuring. Jobs will be added and eliminated. Policies will be adapted for the new political structure. Feelings get hurt. Company loyalists get stubborn.

Depending on who’s running the show, a fissure occurs between the merging companies and it quickly turns into, “Well, our policy is XYZ,” and “Well, our research shows ABC.” “Our,” of course, is the pronoun for the side we’re on. Right now, we have two companies, two sides. That mentality of “two sides” is the basis of Us versus Them, and it’s the antithesis of productivity.

When talking to my colleague, I told her, “We need to have way more Us and way less Them.” I think she took my statement to mean that we need to have way more Legacy US Airways, since that’s the company my badge, my ID number, my payroll, and my employment experience declare. That’s not at all what I meant.

I look at everything–everything–we’re doing as working together as one team. Yes, each company has a policy desk. Yes, each company has an operations center. Yes, each company has an IT department and a reservations system–but we’re not “each company” anymore. We’re headed, rather rapidly, towards becoming one company, and we have to become a team. When I say we need more “Us” and less “Them,” I’m talking about the mentality. We need far less “Legacy US” versus “Legacy AA” and far more “New American Airlines.”

My passion, second only to my passion for writing, is customer service. Sometimes, when you’re in the midst of a policy battle–“Are we going to use blue stripes or red stripes on the company communiques?”–it’s too easy to lose sight of the reason we’re in this in the first place: our customers. Regardless of the discussions or the divisions behind the scenes, we’re offering one ultimate product to the public. Regardless of company loyalties, our airport and reservations agents need to be unified, and that is a mentality that starts at the top and works its way down.

There is a big picture here. It’s comprised of 100,000 employees and millions of customers. Our biggest job, from CEO to janitor, is to present our customers with a clean, streamlined, forward-thinking airline with reliable service, both in the air and on the ground. It’s a huge undertaking to get 100,000 people on the same page, but it’s possible and it’s necessary.

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