Wednesday, January 29, 2014
I read somewhere recently that the latest trend in business political correctness requires that employees be referred to as ‘associates’, and that stores refer to customers as ‘guests’. By the time I post this, of course, this might have all changed again.
Now, I am the first to acknowledge the power of words. Words can change the world. Sticks and stones can only break my bones, but words can really hurt me. There is merit in being careful about our choice of words. But really: Associates? Guests? Would I be right to suspect that I was being patronised (if not conned) by such language?
‘Associates’ at least has some kind of loose applicability. These (my bosses) are, indeed, people with whom I loosely associate. But am I supposed to believe that the use of such a term will actually do away with the inequalities in power and wealth that exist between employers and employees? It doesn’t really matter whether I think such inequalities are bad, good or morally neutral. They will continue to exist whether I am called an employee or an associate. To call me an associate is surely an attempt to disguise this fact.
And as for ‘guest’… I’m your guest? A cup of tea would be nice. Do you have any Tim Tams? What’s for dessert? I’m not your guest. You don’t know me. I don’t know you. I don’t even like you. I actually don’t want your cups of tea. If you can’t provide the product I’m looking for, I want nothing to do with you. You’re a store; I’m a customer.