Ours is the age of substitutes: instead of language, we have jargon:
instead of principles, slogans: and, instead of genuine ideas, bright ideas.
Eric Bentley

Semantics is about the relation of words to thoughts, but it also about the relation of words to other human concerns. Semantics is about the relation of words to reality – the way that speakers commit themselves to a shared understanding of the truth, and the way their thoughts are anchored to things and situations in the world.
Steven Pinker


Lately, I’m concerned about the jargon permeating the workplace.  These days, technology and jargon go hand in hand in separating folks by creating impersonal environments.  At a time when we need to pull together, I believe technology and the words we routinely use in reference to people and processes are pushing us apart.  I’ve written before about how technology has impersonalized our communication.  Perhaps the terms we use as we employ people are doing the same.  For example: 


This is an important aspect of building strong teams and an engaged workforce.  However, we often read about managers who complain about the performance of their employees and that employee engagement is only 30%.  I would encourage we all remember that when we recruit and place job ads we are really inviting people to come work for us.  When we hire people as employees, we are extending long-term invitations to join our organizations. 

We should conduct ourselves like good hosts, lead, and manage well.  If employees end up performing poorly perhaps it’s because we made a poor choice or weren’t clear when setting expectations and intentional in holding them accountable.  Yes, they’re adults but we initiated the relationship.  We need to hold up our end of the bargain.

Human Resources

I’m all over the human part but “resources” may be what we have neglected.  Individuals who are good workers and a good match for our environments are extremely valuable.  In addition, like oil or clean air, they are not unlimited resources.  Once we have found them we need to treat them as such.  We need to value them and show them we do.

Human Capital

Once again, let’s pay attention to the human part and forget the capital part.  Merriam-Webster defines capital as:

“wealth in the form of money or other assets owned by a person or organization or available or contributed for a particular purpose such as starting a company or investing”

I agree on the “assets” portion but take issue with the “owned” part.  I believe we may have begun to focus too much on the property aspect of our employees and less on their value as assets.  The term human capital may objectify employees as opposed to recognize their value.  Personally, I’m eliminating it from my vocabulary. 


I’m not suggesting everyone stop using the above phrases but I do encourage all of us to reconsider how we use them.  People make our organizations work.  People we invited to join our teams.  Therefore, we can recruit resources, treat them as capital in our companies and watch them disengage or we can invite people to work for us, support them, connect with them and recognize they are the lifeblood of our organizations.  It’s not the words but the meanings we assign to them and how those meanings influence our mindset as managers and leaders that can make a difference in how we treat the people who work for us and in turn how they contribute to organizational success.

I’m just sayin’.

Here to serve,


John Duba

Next month:  The Fork in the Road

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