The 5 Powers of a Good Enemy – Red Sox Fans Hate the Yankees
Red Sox fans are all alike. They hate the Yankees. You might respect the talent of the Yankees, but a Red Sox fan knows the Yankees buy championships.
“… studies show that rabid sports fans have higher self-esteem and are less depressed, less alienated and less lonely.” (Seattle Times)
Fans have something to love and something to hate. Let’s talk about hate.
The 5 powers of a common enemy:
Common enemies unify teams.
The thing you’re fighting for helps you identify what you’re fighting against. If you’re for the Red Sox, you’re against the Yankees.
Common problems give you something to control. If the enemy is inefficiency, you quickly identify things within your power to control.
Feeling powerful increases energy and intensifies resolve.
Feeling powerless drains resolve. Why try if you can’t change anything?
#3. Loyalty and support:
It’s embarrassing that the Red Sox stole signs, but true fans stick with the team when they screw up.
A true fan cheers for the Red Sox even when the Yankees are winning. Common problems provide opportunity to support each other when the score is upside down.
Common problems accentuate the advantage of combined strengths.
A common enemy gives us a way to evaluate each other. A Red Sox fan that likes the Yankees can’t be a member of the inner circle.
The more we hate the same thing, the better we feel about each other.
Identity impacts behavior. Being a true fan is who you are, not something you do. The craziness of fandom demonstrates the power of identity.
Fans wear odd cloths and do strange things like spin towels. Fans make bizarre noises in unison, the more unique, the better.
The most important question you ask is, “What are we fighting for?” But …
You know what to fight against after you declare what you’re fighting for.
How might leaders bring teams together around a common enemy?
What enemy are you fighting against?
Nothing Brings a Team Together Like a Common Enemy (Forbes)
Friendship’s Dark Side: We Need a Common Enemy (NY Times)
Happy Hump day Dan!
1. State your vision for an improved future in one particular area (the enemy), ask for comments, input etc., develop metrics to measure and manage, then go to work, adapt, flex as needed.
2. Municipal work force bureaucracy (two big problems: weak leadership in middle management and not confronting poor performers).
Thanks Bill. Good seeing you here. The idea of confronting poor performers seems to get clearer if we have a clear enemy. A poor performer gives advantage to the enemy. hmmmm… something to reflect on.
I saw this on a team. Every one hated the guy running the program. I tried not to join in but he was such a jerk it was just to easy. To this day I regret it. The problem was when he finely moved on and I got his job the culture stayed. Opps I wish I had worked with them to find a common enemy that was a true barrier to our mission. Lesson learned.
Thanks Walt. Great point. The wrong enemy is harmful to the team. When the enemy is at the table, we have the wrong enemy.
However, we might say that an inability to resolve conflict is an enemy. That’s an enemy we have to deal with internally.
This reminds me of a mobbing mentality. When insecure team members gang up on the strongest person, it gives them a false sense of power. Meanwhile, their main objective is to tear down the target at all costs, even at the cost of sacrificing a successful team. Mobbing creates a horrible and miserable work environment, but what is worse is when management sees it and refuses to step in to stop it from happening. It may feel like getting rid of the target will be less stressful for everyone but removing the strongest link from a weak chain can be very damaging. I think managers should reassign roles and figure out how to utilize everyone to their highest potential. In other words, this person should not be your target problem. Let’s refocus, combine our strengths, and figure out how to make our team’s performance great.
I think that this is a very thought-provoking post. A common enemy can definitely be something that is very good for a team. As you mentioned, unity is a great benefit of a common enemy. In the current lockdown, I have seen people come together much more online. Currently, we are all fighting the common enemy of Covid-19. While this is a faceless enemy, it is still providing the same benefit, if not even better ones since people will not be pitted against one another, but everyone everywhere will come together. There have been less aggressive comments towards one another on online forums. This is a great example of how people are viewing covid as a common enemy. I think that a leader could use another company, or even a hard goal to reach in the same way.
I also think that, as you have mentioned, loyalty is a huge factor that is gained. If a leader is using another company as the enemy, his/her employees will be more loyal to their company of employment. With the current state of lockdown, I have seen people very loyal to their states/countries and proclaiming how proud they are of their place of residence.
From a sport perspective, I know a thing about loyalty as I have been and always will be a Detroit Lions fan! What I love most, is the energy that the crowd brings. Regardless of how many horrible seasons we have had, we continue to support our teams. For the athletes and the fans, failure and lack of success is our common enemy.
I think it is easy for a leader to bring a team together around a common enemy as the outcome sought is typically shared amongst the entirety of the team. The greatest enemy I feel, is the fight against oneself. It is easy to hold ourselves back from goals and achievements at times and for various reasons, but getting past whichever wall is in the way will lead to great accomplishments.
It’s interesting to see how a hate for something can bring two individuals together. A shared hatred can create a tight knit bond between people. At the moment, the global pandemic is definitely something we can all agree to hate. No matter what background, we are all fighting against ending this common enemy. With many people working towards a similar goal, this leads to greater connections amongst the community and more enthusiasm. Successful teamwork is a component that occurs when individuals come together. Competitiveness also transpires when other entities see another company or business flourishing and progressing. This creates passion whether it be in the workplace or even personal life within friendships. Forming a bond through mutual hate for something causes growth at times. When two allies form, they become more motivated to “be better” than their competition.
As for leaders, it’s important to direct this attention towards the proper cause or else other negative outcomes may form. As an example, many are working with each other against COVID-19 but racism is another factor that has become an issue. While this group mentality can be a positive thing, if the leader is not using their platform wisely this leads to potentially negative problems.
I found this post to be very insightful and reflective about my own life. As I reflect on my past experiences, I find that I worked the hardest in a team when I had a competitor I deeply disliked. I truly believe enemies or competitors are crucial in sports, corporations, or academic environments because it forces people to work hard and unite their efforts. It also keeps people on their toes and challenges them to constantly refine their craft in order to stay ahead. In high school, I use to be a part of the debate team. Although my teammate and I often did not get along, we always managed to cooperate and unite when it came time to compete against other schools in the district, who we mutually hated. As I reflect on my time in the debate team, I find that my teammate and I garnered a sense of unity, loyalty, and identity through the competitions we participated in. By despising our enemies, we were forced to work harder than ever before and unite against the schools we disliked. Through this process, we learned to place our differences aside in order to win. I truly believe the “common enemy” was what helped us to repeatedly win in the debate competitions against prestigious private schools in the district, where the debaters were far more experienced than us.
Another great post Dan. I have never been much of a sports fan, but maybe I should give it a try if being a die-hard fan has such great benefits. My husband would certainly appreciate it! I think it is important for leaders to present the game plan for attacking the common enemy with excitement and clarity. If a leader effectively inspires their team members, their energy will bring the team together to reach the common goal. A clear vision of the task at hand will make it easier for the team to imagine their success. My boss does a great job of inspiring our team to work together to reach common goals. Her passion and enthusiasm for my personal success inspires me to make her proud.
I also think it is important to focus on the correct enemy and not create new ones that are unnecessary. An enemy I believe we are always fighting against is ourselves, as we should constantly strive to become better versions of ourselves. A little competition within myself has always been helpful in motivating me to perform my best. I would consider my fight to accomplish my personal development goals to be similar to competing against an internal enemy, and I feel that it is beneficial to always be vigilant in this fight.
I really enjoy the psychology behind this. The best example of this is when the Saints were busted with Bountygate in 2011, just about every fan in the city justified their behavior. Actually, we celebrated it, because we’re the underdog, and fans can be pretty vengeful about every act against our boys. On game days, everyone in the check out line is your buddy and you gripe about how the referees are out to get “them boys.” Can’t count all the times I’ve been in a store crawling with Saints fans and a Cowboys fan walks in…what were they thinking walking around with that jersey on? If you have Saints gear on, you know your heckling will garner immediate support. I was in a small Nike store on a game weekend when in walks a Cowboys fan. The security guard joked about keeping them out and they expressed (possibly genuine) gratitude when they were allowed in. The employees, customers, kids even, were all in on it.
There really is a high associated with this kind of belonging. Working in a non profit where the enemy is bad policies around sex education really shows the effectiveness of this sort of bonding mechanism. Besides getting everyone on the same page as far as working toward the same goal, it opens up other bonding behaviors that add to the cyclical affect of having a common enemy. We joke about the clueless opposition organizations and politicians. We bring our organization’s strengths and connections to the table for others orgs to use as needed, and they reciprocate. We share in the successes and console each other through the losses.
It seems that these bonds would come organically, as long as everyone subscribes to the legitimacy of the enemy. Clearly, you won’t have the best contributor to the team if they don’t agree that there’s a problem.