There’s a major downside to being the office cheerleader

Your team at work has been working endless hours pulling together the big report and energy is fading fast. The motivation that united the group way back when has completely disappeared and everyone is just grumbling about having to work late again. Suddenly, in a burst of pure joy and inspiration (and maybe even fairy dust), someone gets things going again and everyone feels happy, energized and ready to tackle anything that comes their way. 

So, who is this magical professional who saved the day? That would be the office cheerleader who mysteriously uses their skills to unite the masses and keep everyone enthused whenever possible. It sounds like a tempting place to be, right? The hero of the narrative who unites the masses. Before you decide whether or not you should be the unofficial person who keeps everyone going, even when you’re not sure you can, dive deeper into what it can mean.

What’s an office cheerleader anyway?

A few years back, MindManager (a division of Corel) analyzed the different types of people in the workplace. They based some of this information on the work of British management consultant Dr. Meredith Belbin who back in the 1960s identified team roles as part of a study of teams at the Henley Business School. One of the key takeaways overall was the fact that in a group, the cheerleader understands that positive feelings have a major impact on working well. 

How does cheerleading translate to the workplace?

Well, pom pom imagery aside, an office cheerleader is the one who manages to get along with everyone and share all opinions with the team overall. If someone feels marginalized or ignored, the cheerleader might find a way to highlight that person’s accomplishment at an upcoming group meeting. The cheerleader might also be the one to represent the group in a larger corporate meetup or the one who champions their cause or need for new equipment or time off. Think of the office cheerleader as someone who is also informally the publicist for the group, highlighting the team’s best qualities and sharing them in a way that flatters all.

Should you be the office cheerleader?

Maybe. But “Proceed with caution,” warns J. Kelly Hoey Author of Build Your Dream Network. “For 4 years I was the manager of professional development for a global law firm. Alongside my colleagues in recruiting, I was the front face of the firm for new attorney hires,” Hoey explained. In that role, “I was also the encouraging and compassionate career coach for the associates navigating the various ups and downs of their professional lives. In other words, I had to cheer people on, cajole them to attend programming, assure them they had made the right career choice…and the downside? No one truly realizes how damn hard the job is!” she finished.  

If you’ve naturally fallen into the position of office cheerleader, there’s a good chance that you jockeyed for the position even if you weren’t aware of it. Do you take it personally when your team isn’t recognized for your great collaborative results produced? Do you find yourself sticking up for others who might not be popular in the office right now? Do you try to explain away things that seem painful to the entire group but might prove to be beneficial in the long-term? Well, you might just be a natural office cheerleader.

Use caution

The downside of being the one to cheer everyone else on is the fact that you might end up finding yourself depleted. After all, using most of your energy to cheering others on could end up being a draining process. And while you have to look at the bright side at all times, truly studying the pros and cons might also mean that you’re the only one who clearly understands the downside of the process. That’s a tremendous responsibility to bear on your own. More than that, as the office cheerleader, you also run the risk of feeling unappreciated, since if you’re the person everyone else counts on to feel better about themselves and their work, there’s no one left to do that for you.

There’s also one element that is frustrating to most office cheerleaders “If you’re cheerful, the role is fun,” Hoey said. She shared the fact that someone actually said this to her in an interview, “in answer to the question of why they were interested in working in my department, the interviewee said ‘because it looks like such fun’ – and no, I did not hire her).” Hoey also said, “I’m not sure I was taken as seriously because the demands of the role and creativity I brought to meet challenges (staffing, budgets, etc.) were camouflaged by the sunny outward appearance.” It’s a tough balance between being upbeat or being minimized for seeming to always be upbeat. 

If you love the idea of having a cheer team at work, these are some tips to help you get started:

  • Consider a buddy system first: If you worry that assigning one person to be unofficial cheerleader might end up being a mistake, set up small motivational teams instead. Have two people act as co-cheer so that if energy or enthusiasm is flagging, they can honestly discuss the issue at hand and cheer each other on. It’s fine to try to do this unofficially at first to see if it works. 
  • Or try a revolving process: It’s tough to be the only one trying to boost everyone else’s moods. Try creating a chart where everyone takes on the cheerleading duties for a week or month and see who thrives, who’s good at it, or who’s better off on their own.
  • Add some perks: As with anything work-related, cheering on a team takes a lot of extra work and energy. If you’re the office cheerleader, ask for professional upgrades to go along with the position. It can be something as small as an extra day off after a particularly grueling project, or a flight upgrade on your next business trip. It’s also a good way to remind your team—and boss—that by being office cheerleader you provide a valuable extra service.
  • Don’t take the cheerleader title literally: No skimpy costumes or group cheers necessary and think before you implement anything radical. Back in 2015 Chinese tech companies were criticized mightily for hiring young, attractive female workers to motivate male co-workers. That’s not just tacky, in a post-#MeToo world, it’s offensive on every level.