#35: Don't call people resources

Hey friend,

Today, I wanted to write you about mentoring, but this seemed more suitable for the current tech scene. As many companies take a look at how to use their workforce more effectively to increase profits and cut costs, I wanted to write about something that disturbs me a lot.

It’s not difficult to guess that in each company, people are called resources in one way or another. I’ve never heard of a company that forbids using the “resources” word.

My problem with the word is that how we use doesn’t fit its definition and it removes the human sentiment from any situation.

According to Miriam-Webster Dictionary, the most suitable definition for the tech industry’s usage is “a source of information or expertise.” If we call people a source of information or expertise, that would be okay-ish. Still wrong, but okay-ish. People can be experts and can be a source of information. But people are never just a source of information.

The word “resources” dehumanizes the people in the company. People are individuals and have unique characteristics that can’t be replaceable. If people were resources, we could hire and replace everyone quickly without having any behavioral interviews and would never look for “cultural fit” in the hiring process.

Historically, people’s characteristics were not considered during industrialization. That’s why the term “Human Resources” came up. People’s jobs were repetitive and didn’t require any specific skills or personality. Humans were used as resources like materials that can be replaceable quickly when it’s not working.

In the tech industry, people are, well, people. We have to consider every aspect of human life. We can’t even get the same productivity from a person every single day. People have good and bad days. Their motivation and performance will vary each day in different projects and situations.

That’s the part you’ll learn when you become a leader. As a leader, your job is not to see people as resources. Always think about them as human beings. Think about people’s lives and if you know that they will be in a stressful month, support them by trying to reduce their stress and workload on the company. Even if you’re doing so-called “resource planning,” use the right term and do “staff time allocation and project planning.”

While it doesn’t fit into its definition, my other problem is about culture. Using certain phrases and words changes company culture. Every leader should care about cultural changes in a company. When wrong words make their way into the company vocabulary, the culture shifts.

As using the “resources” dehumanizes people, the company starts optimizing the wrong things. Resource planning becomes like a number game where “resources” are shifted left and right without considering any personal impact. The burden on the teams and departments grows and attrition increases. If you become a manager, you’ll see that planning projects and staff are difficult jobs where nothing can be like a number game.

I want to keep this letter short today. So, don’t use the word resources to refer to the people in the company. Never. Ever. Find alternatives for the situation you have. Use the terms “project planning,” “staff,” or “people.” Also, read Uwe’s post. Uwe explains well the ethical, performance, team, and hiring problems when using the word “resources.” I couldn’t explain it better, so that’s why I’m sending you Uwe’s post.

Until next time.


Newsletter Last Updated: Jul 13, 2022