It is common to talk about resources. Unfortunately what we mean is often people who we want to help us with something. A project need resources to be able to solve the task.
I discussed this with a friend of mine a while ago. He is working as a project manager. I asked him about using the term resources. He was very clear on the subject. He refers to resources until the point he has a name on the person who will participate and help him complete the project. The resource is then promoted to be a person and will be referred to with his/her name instead of something else.
I received some help from another department the other day. The guy who came and helped us with some network issues called himself a resource. That made me upset. Not the fact that he wanted to help us to solve a problem, but that he viewed himself as a resource. This person is not a resource, he is a guy that will do his best to solve our problem.
Another friend of mine talked about how people are viewed in a new project he just joined. They seem to refer to the project members as resources even during daily standup. My friend, who is very polite, had been thinking to himself to say “He name is actually ‘insert a good name here’” and not a resource. He hasn’t done that as far as I know.
What is a resource then?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a resource as:
noun : something that a country has and can use to increase its wealth : a supply of something (such as money) that someone has and can use when it is needed : a place or thing that provides something useful
The closest definition seems to be “thing that provides something useful”. This implies that there are people that refers to other people as things.
Asking Merriam-Webster again about thing gives this definition:
noun : an object whose name is not known or stated : an object, animal, quality, etc., of any kind : a particular event, occurrence, or situation
If we use the definition “an object whose name is not known or stated” then it may be ok to refer to people as a resource until the point you know the name of the person that will participate to create the solution. It is, however, not ok to use this definition after the name is known.
In my opinion, the habit of referring to people as resources is a view on the humanity that is showing through.
So, don’t call people resources. Call them by their name and treat them as the human beings they actually are. And remember, resources are replaceable, human beings with competence and knowledge are not easy to replace.