The Treachery of Language

December 24, 2013 by Wally Bock

I was reading David Jardin’s post, “Why You Really Need to Start Treating Talent Like Assets” when I came across the following.

“When it comes down to it, companies treat talent as either assets or expenses.”

Jardin’s point is that people are assets in the sense that you invest in them. They are sources of profit, not expenses. I agree with that. But I think there’s a deeper issue here.

People are not expenses or assets or talent. They’re people with all the messy human stuff that people bring. It’s the same as with Magritte’s famous pipe.

That pipe is the subject of a painting that Rene Magritte completed in 1929. Under the picture of the pipe is the inscription: “This is not a pipe.” As the painter himself said, later: “could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not?”

Magritte called the painting, “The Treachery of Images.” When we use words like “talent” and “assets” to describe people, we run the risk of treating them like physical assets or disembodied talent and not like people.

That’s dangerous because the things that make people a sure source of sustainable competitive advantage are the very things that make them human. Only people have passion and creativity. Assets do not. Talent does not.

When we starting thinking of people using the words and thought patterns we use for physical assets, we start down the slippery slope toward treating people like physical assets. But people are not interchangeable and easily replaceable. Each one is unique.

Think of people as people. Use people language. And reap the rewards.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Uncategorized

If You Enjoyed This Post...

You'll love getting updates when we post new articles on leadership development, 360 degree feedback and behavior change. Enter your email below to get a free copy of our book and get notified of new posts:

Follow Envisia Learning:

RSS Twitter linkedin Facebook

Are You Implementing a Leadership Development Program?

Call us to discuss how we can help you get more out of your leadership development program:

(800) 335-0779, x1