Coming back to the office | How to avoid the “them and us” culture

Coming back to the office | How to avoid the “them and us” culture


August 31, 2021

Over the next few months employees of many organisations will start to come back to the office, albeit slowly at first and probably in anew working pattern in what has been described as ‘hybrid’ working.

It will not be without its challenges. One of the challenges some organisations will face is the ‘them and us’ culture that may cause some resentment and relationship issues amongst members of staff.

Who are the ‘them’ and who are the ‘us’?

In some organisations, employees have been in the office throughout the pandemic. I know of one bank where up to 1500 members of staff have been in their HQ building in Canary Wharf throughout. The challenge now is the fact that for those who have been in the office, there is a mindset that they have been at the ‘front line’, putting themselves at greater risk to keep things moving, whereas everyone else, at least in their mind, have been safely working from home having an easier time.

This is obviously not the case, or at least it’s not quite as stark a contrast, nonetheless there is a danger that there may be some animosity between staff members. There may also be a generational and geographical gap. Typically, there is a younger generation coming into the office more and are likely to be geographically closer. Whereas there is another, typically more senior generation who have not been in the office as a result of government guidance and the risk of travelling on public transport.

The new way of working for your organisation, will likely offer more flexibility. It will take some getting used to but it offers businesses many opportunities. To take advantage of these opportunities it is essential that organisations mitigate the risk of the ‘them’ and ‘us’ culture developing. Here are some thoughts on how you do that:

1.     Conduct a culture re-boot exercise – align staff members to the vision, mission, values and strategy so that everyone understands their purpose in the organisation.

2.     Focus on some team building activity at an early stage.

3.     Mix and match staff members and ask them to discuss their experiences of either working in the office throughout the pandemic or working from home.

4.     Ensure inclusivity. Make sure meetings are inclusive and there are guidelines or even rules around how to include every one in everything that takes place.

5.     Set up a system that enables you to measure your culture, an ongoing “culture audit” if you like.

6.     Be flexible – no one can predict the future of work so be prepared to trial things and don’t just revert to the old ways of working.

At KRM22 we specialise in risk management and our People and Culture Risk Cockpit (PCRC) helps organisations manage all aspects of people and culture risk. In this case it will support your ability to monitor and manage your culture, including addressing the potential ‘them’ and ‘us’ issues you may face.


If you would like to know more, please contact Chris Cherrington (

Chris Cherrington is the founder of Kintail Consulting and is an expert in leadership and organisational change. Kintail Consulting are in partnership with KRM22 where he heads up People and Culture Risk Management