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Dehumanising services

Dehumanising services using the power of language is something that has been happening gradually. A change of name here, a restructuring of a department there and when we noticed a new concept has been introduced and it may not be one, we are not particularly happy about.

It doesn’t happen just in aviation, or translation for that matter, it happens in all industries, and everyone is involved in this dehumanisation of things. We don’t hire humans anymore; we hire abstract concepts of human traits.

Human Resources or Talen Acquisition?

If you belong to my generation, I am sure you have heard of a Department of Human Resources. All big companies used to have them, and they were made of people who were responsible for dealing with contracts and employment. But over the years it has suffered a huge transformation to what it is today. Not on what its responsibilities are though, no, they still do the same things, but the way they do it and how they are called.

From Human Resources we abbreviated to HR. Let’s face it we abbreviate everything, and I don’t think calling it HR is anything offensive or dehumanising. But now there are no humans apparently, they acquire talent instead of those with a professional qualification. The candidates are no longer candidates they are a talent pool.

Customer service or Customer Experience?

But this does not happen just to employees, even customers have been dehumanised. A few decades ago, if you had an issue with your plane ticket, your TV, or any other product or service, you would call the customer service line and would talk to a customer service representative. Now you call a client satisfaction representative or client experience representative or even a customer success representative, I think the latter is particularly fancy.  In this case, the language is used a little better, you are still a client, but the service is for your satisfaction or experience or even better your success, not for you.

A language professional or a vendor?

In language services, is not a total dehumanisation but the introduced perception of less value or skill. The people who work as project managers and have the responsibility to coordinate big projects, sometimes across a wide range of services, are seen as vendor managers and the professionals who perform that wide range of services are seen as vendors. Seeing them as vendors has that automatic perception that they don’t need any form of formal qualification to do that job, so it is less skilled and therefore can be paid less.

It is all a mental process

This is all a very subtle mental process. When you refer to someone as talent you take the skill attached to the word technician or specialised worker, it’s just a talent. It is easy to devalue. Same for clients, it’s not the person that matters but the experience. These abstract concepts have implemented a lack of empathy and respect among us.

Poor leaders prefer to dehumanise or devalue than lead. Yes, we do need talent in our companies, we do need clients to have a wonderful experience, but they are all humans, not abstract concepts.

As for the vendors, it’s easier to see the product of someone’s work as a commodity than to accept their skills.