Human or Resource? Jenni discusses how we treat people at work

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Jenni Jepsen

The impact of our words on our thinking is clear. When we talk about the great people working with us in our organizations as “resources,” it turns people into objects.

Objects that can be moved around or discarded at will. Over the long term, our language choices change the wiring in our brains, so that we lose empathy for people because we stop thinking about them as human beings.

I feel quite strongly about this.

One of the reasons I enjoy my work so much (and in full disclosure, why it can also be frustrating), is that I care deeply about the people in organizations.

I want every person to feel valued, to be involved and engaged in the work and appreciated for the solutions they bring to the table every day.

In this video I talk about:

  • The effect of our words on our thinking
  • Why we need to stop using dehumanizing language
  • How we can change our language from “resource” to “people”

The language we use does affect how we think and act. It may seem subtle, and you may think that you know the difference and people know what you mean when you refer to people as “resources” or “FTEs.”

However, by continuing to use that language over time, our brains hardwire to a place where we stop thinking about people as people — creating by itself a major lack of engagement by employees who do not feel valued for who they are or for what they do.

Watch this LeadershipNudge to understand more about why we need to always refer to our people as people, not as numbers on a spread sheet.

It’s not easy to make this happen, and I know I am not alone in this quest! So, please let’s use language as a tool to make people feel valued. We are humans. Not resources.

For more on the effects of dehumanizing language, I recommend: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent, by Isabel Wilkerson.

To go deeper into how leadership is tied to language, I recommend: Leadership Is Language, by L. David Marquet.

Let me know your experiences and thoughts.

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