People Were People Before They Were Your People

So this is a post that will likely cause me some trouble with the politically correct crowd. That’s because I’m going to rip on, just a little, all the new fancy titles we now see. Chief Inclusion Officer is one that comes to mind. Except some companies have decided “chief” is now offensive so they can’t use that title anymore. 

Companies seem to be in a rush to add titles with the words diversity, inclusion, equality and the like. There are so many “buzz word” titles floating around that I couldn’t possible mention them all. These companies are trying to prove that everyone in their organization is valuable. Which is a worthy thing to do. But I have a question.

Instead of endowing people with fancy titles that say “we care” how about actually caring? How about showing you care for everyone equally instead of saying it again and again?

I have tremendous faith in people’s ability to figure out if the place they work gives a damn about them. Somebody in the company with a progressive sounding job title isn’t going to fool them. 

Which brings me to more traditional sounding titles and departments. Like Human Resources. Or maybe a little more modern sounding Human Asset Management Department. Or my personal least favorite, Human Capital Resource Group. 

The problem with departments or groups with those names is it sets up the mindset that people should be managed like any other piece of capital or asset. I had the unhappy experience about 18 months ago of sitting next to a consultant during a dinner. We struck up a conversation about how their consultancy advises their clients. 

He said that when they recommend downsizing they look at job titles, work responsibilities, cost of “asset,” and how much longer the asset would be of value. They do not recommend the termination of anyone by name, that makes it too personal and may cause the management of the client company to hesitate. 

It’s sort of the same thought process as when a farmer won’t name a pig or a cow that they intend to eat one day. 

The consultant doesn’t really care how a client company thinks of their people, so long as they don’t think of them as people. They are merely assets or capital like a copier or computer. You pay them and you own them. 

But here’s the thing. They ARE people. They have always been people. They will always be people. You may pay them but you don’t own them. 

Businesses that forget that their primary business is the people business will not last. It makes no difference what you see or what you make, you are in the people business. Your people were people long before they were your people. 

It is beyond foolish for you as a leader to expect your people to care for your business or it’s customers when the best you can do is give someone in the company a new-age title that shows how progressive your organization is. People don’t care how progressive the company is when the people running the company don’t demonstrate that the company cares about them. 

When the company shows they care about their people, all their people, equally, they don’t need fancy titles. If the company fails to show they care about their people no amount of fancy titles will convince them otherwise. 

Inclusion, honoring diversity, and treating everyone equally won’t come from titles or committees, it comes from an Authentic Leader demonstrating those values on a daily basis. 

4 thoughts on “People Were People Before They Were Your People

  1. Or as Scott Adams’ Pointy-Haired Boss in the Dilbert cartoons once said, “Staff are our greatest asset. And like most assets, they lose value over time.”

    The sad thing is that I’ve heard senior executives agree with that statement.

    1. Yep, I’ve seen and heard many many senior executives say it as well. They don’t value experience or the knowledge that comes with it. So they hold their organization back by repeating mistakes those “old assets” wouldn’t have made. But amazingly the executives don’t seem to learn from experience.

  2. Pingback: Show Them |

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