Section 7 of 16
In Progress

Everything belongs to everyone

Ravi Resck 31 de July de 2021

In a recent conversation with a colleague who also helps organizations to adopt self-management, she described an anti-standard that she called “responsibility outsourcing”. A few weeks passed and after having identified the same phenomenon in some clients, I thought for a while and decided to call it with a less negative name.

I'm talking about the anti-pattern “everything belongs to everyone”.

If you have questions about what a anti-pattern, read here a text about.


This anti-standard appears in organizations that have commendable intentions, such as creating a more collaborative, less autocratic management, improving the organizational environment and strengthening the sense of team.

General Form

The "everything belongs to everyone" is nothing more than a set of basic premises or assumptions of the culture of a team or organization. This set can be expressed with the following expressions:

  1. A tension only exists or is valid if everyone in the group feels it.
  2. A tension can only be resolved if everyone is responsible for resolving the tension.
  3. Everyone needs to know everything that is happening and have space to express their opinion in all decisions.

Often, these assumptions are implicit and even unconscious. Everyone believes, or some believe more than others.

Visible signs of this anti-pattern can come in the form of lines:

- This tension is not mine, it belongs to everyone.

- We have to do bla bla bla… Read this text that unravels this idea.

- Everyone does everything here, that's how it works. We collaborate intensely (sic).

- If we don't have all "aligned”However, we will go on different paths and this can only go wrong.

Symptoms and consequences

One of the first effects that can appear is the slowness in solving problems and tensions. The group can only move forward like a block. United and closed. This solidity that comforts, stiffens, locks the system. Simple measures that can relieve tension are no longer taken. Experiments are not done.

Another possible effect is the frustration that can take care of some people. Disbelief in decision-making and collaborative processes, as they take too long or are done without due care, as there was no time to reach the desired consensus. There is a demotivation of the most active who want to “move forward” or irritation of the most cautious who want to study everything thoroughly before taking a step.

The third effect is the disclaimer. Perhaps the most pernicious. I can bring up and talk about a lot of problems, but I know that since the group needs to assume everything, it is not on my back to have to take a step or carry a piano. In English there is a term called “social loafing”Which reflects that a little.  

So it is an anti-pattern, it generates more problems or worse problems than the problems it tries to solve.

When we are in the process of adopting self-management practices, this anti-pattern becomes more critical, because the problems he tries to solve no longer have the same relevance or strength.

Typical causes

This anti-pattern is very common because it really tries to solve serious problems in several organizations.

The first is to protect people from attacks. Of guilty pointing fingers. That is why we need a strong team, that moves like a block, that everyone does everything with the maximum of unity. This need when we are migrating to self-management, begins to diminish, as we work to make the environment less harmful, less accusatory.

The second is to escape from traditional management. The one the boss sends and everyone obeys. And what we know how to put in place is the maxim "the group decides everything and is responsible for everything." See, I am not saying that the group cannot make joint decisions, I am just pointing out the phenomenon where it is believed that everything should belong to everyone.

There is a desire for things to follow the logic of "it is only valid if it belongs to everyone". But that desire is not realized within people. They know that what they feel is different from what the other feels. Only there is a fear. That if she externalizes her tensions as her own, she will give her colleague the right to do the same, and that can go wrong. It is safer to work with what is collective.  

And how is it?

In self-management we seek to create structures or agreements that create the conditions for a real distribution of authority. So that people have autonomy and exercise it without fear, because they know that if something goes wrong, there will be a space for learning and if necessary a re-agreement.

I believe that the exercise of recognizing the other's tension as valid, even if you don't feel it, is an important demonstration of empathy and respect. I always reinforce the idea that tension is within a person. It can resonate with other people, but even when it does, it is not the same. The tension is of the individual who externalizes, because he cares about the purpose that everyone is looking for.

Furthermore, trusting that one or two people can take responsibility for taking steps to resolve a tension that is yours is a powerful vote of confidence. Or trust that the other will act to resolve a tension he feels, always starting from the best possible intentions.

And finally, assume your responsibility when it is your duty, because it is there in the agreements made. I don't need the group to do everything together, we can work towards a common purpose without having to believe that everyone is responsible for everything and that everyone must feel the same things. Isn't that what you want to live for?

Originally written by Rodrigo Bastos and published ON HERE