People are not assets

The words got stuck on the tip of my tongue.  They wanted to come out but I didn’t want to let them.  I wanted to say resource when I meant people and somehow it just felt wrong.  Later I realised that I’d got myself hung up on semantics and the real phrase that I don’t like is that people are our best asset.  I have lots of phrases I don’t like but that is the one I was thinking about.

People are not assets, they are sentient beings with hopes and aspirations, feelings and emotions, abilities and skills.

Thinking of people in this way is unhelpful.  The dictionary doesn’t help me either however in that it refers to an asset as a useful or valuable thing or person.  It then goes on to say it is an item of property owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments, or legacies.

People are not property; they should not be owned.  People are valuable but they don’t have a value that can be offset against your liabilities.  They cannot sit on your balance sheet.  You can invest particular skills or attributes in people but you cannot invest them.

To be fair then people are assets in one sense but not another.  It is still a phrase I don’t like because it seems to me we regard people, in this sense, as chattels to be used, abused and to do our bidding.  That is not how I would like to be approached and I’m sure that the vast majority of people are with me.

We use these words in a casual way.  We don’t really mean to use them in that sense, or perhaps we do, yet people pick up on them and twist and turn the words to make them into what they think they mean.  We need to be very careful about the language we use.

Then we will all be good assets.

About philjackman

Guerrilla Worker, strategic thinker, occasional maverick and reluctant over-achiever with an interest in culture change, creative opportunities and regional development.
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2 Responses to People are not assets

  1. Mal Clarke says:

    “People are not assets, they are sentient beings with hopes and aspirations, feelings and emotions, abilities and skills.”

    I like to think this is co-dependent. Without the sentient abilities there is no asset at all. A meeting room is brought to life by the ideas, events and decisions taken knit not the space itself.

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