Recommended ReadsSeptember 14th, 2021

Why a ‘She’ll be right mate’ culture doesn’t help teams

Catherine Manley
Catherine Manley, Senior Evaluation Consultant

This article is the product of listening to one of my favourite podcasts, the Blindboy Podcast by David Chambers (one half of Irish comedy duo The Rubber Bandits). In this (excellent) episode, he goes into the social and cultural history of the Irish phrase “It’ll be grand” and its Australian counterpart, “She’ll be right, mate.”

He speculates that the parallel expressions might have developed because working-class convicts in Australia had something in common with Irish people living under British occupation: neither group had a compelling reason to do more than a ‘good enough’ job for their English bosses. She’ll be right, mate.

I think his reflections have relevance for leadership and teamwork. The phrase can help create a sense of calm and ease, but when ‘she’ll be right mate’ thinking reaches critical mass, it signals hopelessness, disregard for the outcome and an absence of leadership. When used within teams, it can (unintentionally):

  • dismiss genuine, well-founded concerns
  • exacerbate existing stress and worry for that person and the wider team
  • encourage team members to become disengaged and/or disillusioned

I can admit to being both the victim and perpetrator of all three.

Even when it’s an appropriate ‘she’ll be right mate’ moment, there’s a better response:

  • Stay open-minded and encourage the person to talk through their concern.
  • Come together as a team and explore options (if they had a solution they would have shared it already).
  • Don’t wait for the retro or a team meeting to air out issues together.
  • Acknowledge the courage it took to highlight the issue!

Raising concerns, at least for me, can make you feel like a naysayer, but in reality it could be the most positive contribution you can make towards realising an amazing outcome – for you, your team and, ultimately, the client.

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