People, not resources

Hello, fellow resources people!

It’s very common to hear a statement like, “We need to add some resources to the team”. We may even say something similar from time to time. The meaning is well understood: The team needs to grow to meet business goals.

However, when we think of others as resources, it can be dehumanizing. It is easy to fall into the trap of viewing other people simply as a means to an end. If we do, then we may subtly treat them as such. Of course, we know that people have much more to offer than taking a task and completing it, like a black box. But, if we call something by a name it often takes on aspects of that name. If we call a person a resource, we may end up limiting what they can accomplish — in their eyes or our own.

We prefer to be thought of as people, and not as “resources” or “assets”. The work that we do is creative and technical. We work together as teams. When we feel empowered as individual contributors, we are enabled to do our best work.

Here’s the rub: when we use dehumanizing terms for people, they may feel less engaged, less empowered, less collaborative, less contributory, even less human.

Things that are resources

  • Money
  • Time
  • Oil
  • Computers
  • Software
  • Manuals and documentation
  • Offices and meeting rooms
  • Caffeine (☕️)

All of these are things that we use in the service of accomplishing our goals.

To think about

  • Do I feel the same about money as I do about people?
  • When I use “resources” to refer to “people”, would it be just as easy to say what I mean?
  • How do I feel when I’m referred to as a company resource or asset?
  • Do I think of people as a means to achieving my goals?

Try this

Instead of saying:

“How many resources do we need here?”

try this:

“How many people do we need to add to the team?”

Instead of saying:

“How does this affect resourcing?”

try this:

“How does this affect our staffing?”

People, not resources

thoughtbot team photo 2018
thoughtbot team, 2018