Tuesday, January 03, 2006

La mot juste

1 a : a source of supply or support : an available means -- usually used in plural
b : a natural source of wealth or revenue -- often used in plural
c : computable wealth -- usually used in plural
d : a source of information or expertise

That's what Webster says, at any rate.
Unfortunately, this word now seems to refer to people as well, atleast in the industry that I work in.
Now I'm not particularly fond of going to great (and often ridiculous) lengths to sound politically correct, but I do believe in a reasonable amount of p.c. What surprises me is that I've not really come across any backlash over the usage of this term, to refer to real, live, thinking human beings working for an organization. It's so typically corporate, this attempt to avoid sounding human (and hence avoid human interaction and its underlying responsibilities, perhaps)... why couldn't they put their heads together and think of a word that sounds more personal - engineer, or professional, or team-member, or associate or even something as generic as people?

There was this person who came to take stock of my team and our current work recently, and she asked me, "So how many resources do you have?" And I was so tempted to say that we have three linux machines, a windows machine, three phones, and some amount of hardware and furniture amongst my group :-p.

I wonder why many corporates are so head-in-the-sand-ish about this whole human angle. I guess it's easier for them to think of contributors as objects (refer to 1.d above) so they can go about their sharklike businesses without that niggling little voice of conscience bothering them.
And I've noticed that, funnily enough, a lot of the smaller firms and start-ups do not use this word.
It probably sounds like I'm being a little too harsh on them corporate bigwigs (after all, "What's in a name? A resource by any other name works just as hard??" and all that jazz..) but libby-left that I am, I just can't help wishing they were a trifle more conscious of the environment (human and natural) that they operate in.

But wait, I came across a rather heart-warming mail recently.. posted it here.
And a happy new year 2006 to everyone out there!


Abhinav Goyal said...

Hmm ... well .. Human Resources or HR is a fairly well-entrenched word in a techie's lexicon, is it not?

Empress of Blandings said...

Hey Abhinav!
Long time :-)
Yes it is... but at least it is qualified by the word "human" so it's less demeaning (IMHO, of course!)
Unfortunately, I do not see the ppl I interact with being called "Human" resources...and however well-entrenched I am in the world of tech-dom, I still get annoyed by that word! (Over-Sensitive me, eh :-p )

Abhinav Goyal said...

Well, you gotta take it as it comes, I suppose.

I first encountered the word resource being used in the context of a human when my PL, who was doing his MBA at the time, started saying he had asked the management for more resources. I promptly told him that I would do the work of two people if they gave me an iMac machine. ;) He then asked the management for more "resources" AND an iMac machine. :P

arthurdental said...

we have three linux machines, a windows machine, three phones, and some amount of hardware and furniture amongst my group

The above said with a straight face could drive a point off the tee couldn't it? Even so, my guess is that all you'd get is a gaping face, not quite understanding what you meant! Like mentioned, the heads are in the sand, more so with all the people who are referred to by that word! (self included :-( )

Don't really know why something has to be referred to as a non-human entity in order to sound professional..

Our visiting cards otherwise scream words like 'Systems Engineer', 'Consultants', 'Software Engineer'and so on for designation, in addition to those you mentioned!!

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