When Did “Employee” Become A “Dirty” Word?

I don’t get it – I really don’t.

I’ve been an employee.

That’s right, when I was younger I worked for ‘the man‘ in businesses ranging from a donut shop to a department store.

And now for over 20 years or so, I’ve been – the employer.

So, I’ve seen both sides of the fence. And I can tell you that somewhere along the way, it seems the term ’employee’  has became somewhat of a dirty word -or, if not ‘dirty’, at least not PC (politically correct).

But, I don’t get it.

In my ‘day’ (boy, does that sound like something an old guy would say- oh well) we understood there had to be leaders and followers in order for the work to get organized and done.

It was just that simple.

We knew that both leader and the follower, the boss and the employee, were different – but equally important.

I never felt like a ‘second class’ citizen in my role as worker, as employee – and lately, have been disappointed to see the public ‘pull away’ from using the term, in fear they might hurt someone’s feelings.

Now, everyone has to be an ‘associate’ or a ‘team member’.

And by the way, if those are the terms you use for the jobs you’ve got in your company – relax, it’s fine.

That’s not the point.

The point is how we see our employees.  How we see our customers.  How we see ourselves.

‘Employee’ is a fine word.  ‘Associate’ and ‘team member’ are fine words too.

Treat employees with respect for the important work they do for you and your customers – and, employee, associate or team member will all work just fine.

Treat your staff with disrespect – and, no word, term or name will be slick enough to hide how you really see your cleaning people.  Your employees and your customers will be able to tell you don’t have a win-win- win business philosophy, no matter how you may sugar coat it.

The good news is – it’s all up to us.  We can be an employer employees are proud to work for – and with.


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