Do not Call People “Resources”

Managers: if you call your people “resources”, they get to call you “overhead”.

Calling people “resources” must be one of the worst habits of the different kinds of managers.

Yeah, that is the terminology used in the Project Management Professional training materials. Yeah, there is a “resources” column in Microsoft Project. Yeah, at times discussions of actual business or project resources (equipment, lab space, software licenses, etc) naturally evolves into a discussion of the capacity of the humans involved in the work. But none of these things are an excuse for the intellectual laziness of calling a living breathing thinking human “a resource“. Do you like to be called “a resource“? No? Then don’t call others that. Be a human, not a PM zombie.

Particularly cringe-worthy examples of calling people “resources” are where the “resource” is singular and clearly defined. For example, I have seen plenty of books where “a resource” is used in place of “an engineer”, “a developer”, or “a designer” – without any need for it. “The design verification slot can be left open … until a resource has been selected” —  the “resource” in this sentence can only be a design verification engineer, why on Earth does the author not say it?

And the worst is calling a living breathing professional “a resource” to their face. For this there are no excuses. Say, when a new person joins the project team meeting for the very first time, and the manager cheerfully declares to the rest of the team “we got a new resource!” Managers that do this are signing off on their complete inability to work with people, and companies where managers get away with this are doomed.




I am a program leader at D. E. Shaw Research. The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not represent my employer.

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