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I am not a resource

We have adhered to a rule in our team at Merkle for some time where we do not refer to each other as a ‘resource’. If we do – it is a dollar in the jar.

While at times it has been amusing, such as when a professional accountant has come to speak to the team and the first thing they did was slap down $5, it is an essential aspect of our culture that, as we grow, we hold on to the things that make us different.

Some may find this a silly sticking point, but as we have repeatedly told new team members – we are not coal, we are not wood, we are not oil. We are people.

Culturally, identifying what eats away at your team is fundamental to respecting them and enabling them to feel appreciated. When a peer pointed out that they hated how corporate and cold the word sounded, the entire technical team agreed. What followed was a steady but systematic routing of the term from our vocabulary. In client phone calls our Project Managers would redden as they slipped, and the other team member would smirk at them, knowing full well that the $1 fine would be enforced.

While it may be frustrating for our other teams, even in such a small organisation, each technical team member is different; we have different strengths even when we perform the same role. And being cookie-cut into a non-human reference is another cold blast of corporate vacuum that Merkle genuinely wants to fight. Our name is based on relationships, the human touch, acting as a friend, and we need to stay true to those roots.

There is a person on the side of the resource; there is a person who has other commitments, passions and interests, and the best way to start nurturing a culture, is to recognise people as people actively. Don’t fall into the easy, and ignoble, cold company language of ‘resource’.

In terms of the impact on our clients, when we tell them we don’t use that word, it always gets a reaction because, fundamentally, they see that we have the ideal that everyone is identifiable and worth recognition.

It’s a little thing, but there seems to be a steadfast loyalty to the lack of the word ‘resource’ in our office. When we have visiting speakers, and they use the word, Blair (our Managing Director) looks around the room, and he can see the tech team raise eyebrows or cringe at it.

‘Resource’ might not be it for your team. It might not be a word, it might be an attitude, like booking a meeting without a description (guilty), not providing full handover notes (less guilty), or not owning up to your own mistakes. But I thoroughly recommend you take that sticking point and use it. You will make allies of the cynics in the team who feel like they are being listened to.

Your technical team are often the biggest cynics of all and, in order to get ‘buy-in’, you need to meet them halfway.