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  • Stewart Livingstone

People are not resources

Referring to people as resources has become an epidemic in business. Almost every meeting that I'm in right now, I've heard someone talk about the need to move resources or need more resources, when they actually mean people. Every time I hear it, I cringe. It's like I have a visceral reaction and my head starts to disappear into my body and my shoulders raise.


There is an overwhelming part of society who say that 'words don't matter', but psychology tells us a different story. Words do matter and they have a profound effect on each and every one of us.

The way that people refer to themselves and others is highly diagnostic of their mental state.

- DR. JAMES W. PENNEBAKER, Psychology-chair at the University of Texas


The context you use words and what you say really does speak volumes about the content of your character. Therefore, it's a good idea to mind your thoughts and even more so your words. They are giving off an impression of who you are. So the next time you find yourself wanting to learn more about a person, lean in closer, and listen to the choice of words.


So if you're using the word 'resources' to refer to people, I interpret that as:

  • You see people as something to be consumed;

  • You see people as something that can be moved around a board like chess pieces;

  • You see people as something that you have a stock or supply of;

  • You don't care for people as individuals;

  • You have no concern for how people feel.


I have a strong opinion that you should not be a leader of people if you're referring to your people as resources. For me it's a huge red flag for the type of leader that you are and how you think about those under your care.


Words change the world. Words can start a movement. Words turn dreams into a reality. Your words matter. Choose them carefully. Please stop referring to people as resources.

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