As someone who believes that people are the most important part of any organization, it angers me when management unknowingly dehumanizes employees with a term or a title. Terms and titles always seem important to some managements. For example, years ago, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) adopted the term "human capital" as a replacement for "human resources." Many of the new bits of "capital" at GAO felt demeaned by this new term. They didn't want to feel like an entry on a corporation's balance sheet. Other managements caught on to this new term and began referring to their people as "capital" too. Its everywhere now and many more people are "capital." Recently, I read about an agreement between employees and a management where management agreed to change the term "human capital" back to "human resources." Perhaps other people didn't like to be referred to as "capital" either. I tried searching for the article but couldn't find it. Maybe I was imagining such an article.
That brings me to a speech by the Director of the Office of Personnel Management given on November 2, 2009. This is what has me upset. According to FEDERALTIMES.com, the Director has been thinking of ideas for a new personnel system. According to the article, one new system may have 3 steps: apprentice, journeyman, and expert. Now, the term "apprentice" is nice because it can be viewed as synonymous with someone new to the workforce with a future--possibly an "up-and-comer." The term "expert" is great because it makes a person feel special. That person made it to an important position. But! What professional has strived to be a "journeyman?" What does "journeyman" mean to you? I realize that everyone, at least once, has heard references to a "journeyman" level but it sounds like the "land of lost hope" to me. Who wants to feel hopeless?
In my early years, I would often write something satirical about an idea I didn't like. As something angered me, the more biting my response became. If management had a bad idea, I would substitute my satirical idea for theirs. One day, I decided to "help" GAO with one of its new ideas. GAO's proposal was an idea that combined the worst qualities of "capital" and "journeyman." As I write, I am remembering the concept and believe it was called the "pool member" concept. Under this concept, people, throughout the agency, would be tossed into a "pool" and would be available to work on any assignment, anywhere, for anyone. Needless to say, there were not many volunteers for "pool service." Since I wanted to be helpful, I offered management my own version of the "pool member" concept which I called "MOTH," for "meat on the hook." Briefly, my idea was to build a huge refrigeration unit for the "pool members." Of course, there would be hooks in the refrigeration unit where pool members would be stored until needed. When there was work to be done, a manager would walk into the refrigeration unit and pick specific pool members off of their hooks for the work. I figured that, if we were going to demean the people that did the agency's work, why not really demean them. Let's rub their face in it with the bluntest of terms. Fortunately, MOTH was not adopted but neither was the "pool member" concept.
Human relationships at work are difficult and complex. So, why should any management start off on the wrong foot by demeaning the people that make the organization go by adopting a demeaning "term" or "title?"