There was a time, in the not-too-distant past, when pronouns were clearly designated.
My, I, Me for First Person.
You, Your for Singular 2nd Person.
Us, We for Plural First Person.
In general, Us, We have been used with an inclusive nature – When some said “Let’s go out and play” to a group of friends, it typically meant that everyone (including the speaker) were expected to go out and play.
If someone said “Please clean this room”, it generally excluded the speaker from having to perform any action – the speaker is asking/requesting the listener(s) to perform the action.
Thanks to various reasons, this definition has changed, especially in the corporate context (not sure about others – how do kids talk these days ? )
When we (note that I am including myself in the definition of we here) intend someone else to take some action, instead of using (2) above, we tend to go with (1).
Let us make sure that the slides are updated by End of Day, says the manager to the employee in an email or a verbal conversation.
Unfortunately, the above does not mean that the employee can sit back and provide the speaker to hone his power point skills. Far from it, the statement directly means that the employee is expected to perform the task.
On the other side as well : When an external entity is asking for some work to be done, instead of taking direct responsibility (I will get back to you/ I will do it), we tend to introduce a sense of collective responsibility (We will get back to you) even when it is clear that no such shared responsibility exists.
Why does this happen ?
For the first case, the primary reason I could think of is that our White Collar collaborative work force etiquette indicates that it is rude to use an instructive /direct order tone with one’s peers / reports. Or as a corollary, we think that being inclusive in words (if not in actions) we are being friendly.
This might be true to a certain extent initially, but once a person finds out that all instances of stated inclusion are actually thinly veiled direct commands, the polish of the language comes off and a sense of cynicism sets in.
For the second case, the answer is simpler. I feel that resorting to “we” provides us something to hide behind, in case we are wrong. Or in cases where work has to be picked up, it provides an exit in case one doesn’t / can’t commit to the job. By using this, in most cases we are diluting the direct responsibility and ownership for a task/action/statement. This is fine in some cases, but not in the vast majority where we use it anyway.