Don’t call them employees!


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 “We are the masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.”

– Winston Churchill.


  • Employee  [em-ploi-ee] 

A person working for another person or a business firm for pay.

  • Staff  [stahf] 

A group of persons, as employees, charged with carrying out the work                                        of an establishment or executing some undertaking.



Last month, I called a candidate for an interview who I was sure had the right qualifications, attitude and believed to be a right fit. When he came in for the interview, the HR executive received him and mentioned to him  that it would be a stress interview. Looking at his qualification & experience, we dropped the idea of conducting a stress interview and thought of asking him 3 important questions that would make or break the decision of hiring him. He walked in pompously with his certificates & qualifications. But as soon as the interview started he became nervous, he could hardly answer a simple question and from there on the interview took a down turn .We were taken aback by this 360 degree change in perception and could not understand as why he would fare so miserably in the interview. Post these interviews, my HR executive who keeps a track of the rejected candidates found that this candidate got placed in one of the top MNC.

So, what went wrong?

The word “stress” was responsible for the change in the situation. “Stress created a negative filter in his mind about the interview. He perceived it to be confrontational and stressful. He came into the room with pre conceived notion and that was his downfall. With the slightest provocation, like asking a question triggered a negative reaction in his mind that made him more nervous.

 The words we use have a great impact on our moods and behavior.

There was an experiment that was conducted, where the first group was given a puzzle that had words like “calm” and “polite”, the second group was given a puzzle that had words like “anger” and “rude” while the third group was given a puzzle that had neutral words.

Right after solving the puzzle they were all asked to leave to another room and on their way they found someone who kept interrupting them and forcing them to wait for a long time. The first group of people who were exposed to the rude words were found to respond more aggressively to the person who wasted their time!!The second group of people who were exposed to the polite words were more polite to the person who wasted their time while the third group had a neutral response.

This experiment drives home just how important words tend to be

“Employees” & “staff” – as defined by dictionary are services given by a person in exchange of money. These words create a negative connotation. Employees or Staff merely mean that you work for someone. There is no underlying meaning of collaboratively working with each other to achieve the common purpose.

However words like ‘’associate’’ or ‘’partner’’ come across as someone who works in tandem with others. People with these titles tend to connect far more with the goals & purpose of the company.

The words that we use in a corporate scenario are responsible for creating motivation, changing behavior and attitudes of people. If you want your team to be connected with your company’s goal and purpose, if you want them to create a strong emotional connect with the company and you want them to treat the company as theirs then watch your words.

Words are more powerful than we perceive. An innocuous use of words may have a completely different effect on people’s behavior.

How to use words in your favor that increases motivation & creates right behavior ?

Here are some guerrilla HR ideas to set a positive tone in your organization –

  • Call employees partners, friends, or leaders
  • Call group of people a team instead of staff
  • Call performance appraisal work feedback
  • Instead of having rules & regulations – have guidelines


This will help you create a positive culture and a connect between the  team and the company

“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.” 

– Allan W. Watts.


Create an idea culture





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