I am getting increasingly irritated with our use of language in business. I criticized the use of the phrase “war for talent” back in October. It is interesting with the current plethora of layoffs and corporate shedding of talent that we are not seeing this phrase used very much.
The battle appears to be over and talent in many organizations has been reduced to an expense or cost that needs to be shed. I can’t help but wonder if the very metaphor of war might be a contributing factor to where we are now.
Yesterday, I read the following story title and opening line at a popular business site:
Handling a Crying Employee Dodging Landmines. With talks of layoffs and downturns, an emotional employee could show up in your office at any time.
It is not my intention to attack the author or the site but I do want to voice three initial responses I had to the headline and first line.
1. If I am an employee who is crying, I don’t want to be handled…I want to receive empathy, respect, and caring. If you want to be a handler go work with a boxer.
2. Just because I am emotional does not mean I will explode, let’s limit landmines to war — and it would be good if we didn’t have them there either. And don’t dodge me…listen to me. One of the most disconcerting parts of this story was the video interview began with the titles — DODGING LANDMINES then Landmine: A Crying Employee then an explosion. I felt this was a disrespectful metaphor for our troops who are overseas facing real landmines everyday and a poor analogy for an upset employee.
I showed the story to my wife and she thought I was overreacting. I appreciated her perspective as the interview tips were good while I know I am sensitive to explosive metaphors as 3 Canadian soldiers were just killed just last week by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
3. The story also stated that “an emotional employee could show up in your office at any time.” I have to disagree…emotional employees show up in your office every time and all the time. We are not robots or business Spocks. We are human and that means emotions are always a part of us so lets stop trying to keep emotions and work separate. Emotions are the motion of business and they will range from joy and excitement to anger and sadness. We are all emotional employees.
What business language bothers you? Do specific terms or phrases used in business make you feel uneasy?
I know this short rant will encourage me to watch my language and ensure that I demonstrate respect and care for people and results.