Mind your language: I am not a “Human Resource”

I’ve heard the phrase Human Resources a lot lately and I have to say it sticks in my throat.


Because it embodies the attitudes of corporations and all that is wrong with the system in the first place.

To see the human as a resource, is too see us as something to be owned, mined, optimized, used, and given mans behavior – exhausted.

If we are to change our approaches we must change our language as all words have associations. I recall a discussion with @axelletess and @maryannarogers, where after looking in depth at the problems of work they concluded they must change our associations with work and the word itself.

So I don’t go to work, I go to play. Likewise “Human Resources” must die.

So what goes in place of Human Resources, what do we replace this function with? What fills this absent space?

The enabler: A person that allows me to pursue my passions, to grow, to learn and to live. Someone who allows me to maintain my energy for a project, and to remove the obstacles in life and work that could reduce my momentum.

I’d like to extend the question to HR people. How would you feel about the above position? How do you feel about your job at the moment?

Born of Palomar 5


6 thoughts on “Mind your language: I am not a “Human Resource””

  1. I’ve heard of one large organisation who decided that their employees were “talent” and thus HR became renamed “Talent Management”…I’m not sure it’s better or worse than the grey and lifeless phrase “Human Resources” but it certainly came in for some derision.

    The same organisation had “Imagine-eers” and the Facilities Management team were rebranded “E-Space Management”…

    …is this what you were looking for πŸ˜‰ ?


  2. @mattgreenuk well at least it moves away from people as a resource although it is still nauseating. Personally I would scrap all job titles entirely as to define is to limit our capabilities.

    Management, don’t get me started on management. That’s a role for full surgery rather than rephrasing


  3. @laurie right now i’m just attacking mindsets, and the words that frame them. Holiday parties are good, year long parties are better πŸ™‚ If I had my way i’d have a full time social ambassador.


  4. Great article πŸ™‚

    Felt very much at home. The language truely coins our behavior. You get the wrong word and oops you’re stuck.

    “Human Resources” sounds pretty much like “Natural Resources”, and this is normally connected in most people’s minds to exploit something in the earth.

    Isn’t the intention of the action of what we call “Human Resources” more the enabling work? Letting people choose where they fit best with their strengths and nuture with them together how florish that in order to benefit for the whole system?

    Reshifting from current reality to future vision – not easy and though the best we probably can do.

    Best from Dresden, Germany



  5. Hmm, pondering all the above. Personally I don’t like ‘talent management’ either, partly because of the ‘M’ word(see Jay’s comment above) but also because it assumes a common understanding of ‘talent’. In my experience it’s a loaded word that is used to exclude. In organisations I have experienced problems around this -who defines it, who decides who are the Talented ones, and then who’s excluded (ie ‘not talented’ or ‘not talented enough to merit our attention’.)….words words words, again. I like to think of what is currently known as HR as a kind of people-gardening, where you enable folk to grow to the best of their potential. You also of course, harvest the results(to the good of the organisation) and the occasional bit of weeding may be necessary. But for me its a much more humane and organic way of looking at things. However, can you imagine suggesting such a term in your usual corporate setting?


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