Don’t worry, this is not another blog about COVID. Full disclosure though…the Academy has a staff infection.
After 27 years, our materials are riddled with it. There are references to your “staff” everywhere.
It’s no one’s fault. Staff has been used to refer to employees or personnel since the early 1800’s. It’s still common place in several settings like hospitals, educational institutions, and the military.
Despite its ongoing presence in the workplace, it’s time for that word to retire.
What started as a fairly normal pet peeve and preference of mine to not to use the word “staff,” has turned into a complete disdain for it and a pledge to eradicate it from the Academy.
Some of you might be thinking, what’s the big deal?
As a leader, I firmly believe it’s our job to raise others up and help those we lead to succeed. When others thrive, it enables both the company and the leader to do the same. A multitude of talents are embodied by a great leader. One of those involves the words we choose; they directly impact those around us.
Merriam Webster’s definition of staff as it relates to employees is: the personnel who assist a director in carrying out an assigned task.
Ew! I don’t want to be surrounded by a bunch of assistants waiting for me to bark out orders. I want to be surrounded by amazing people that inspire me to try harder. People who are fully capable of directing their own activities and working together to achieve common goals.
Now let’s contrast this with their definition of team player: someone who cares more about helping a group or team to succeed than about his or her individual success.
Who wouldn’t want to hire someone in the latter bucket?
There are countless articles on the language we use as leaders and how it impacts those around us; it’s not a new concept. One of the most common shifts talked about is using the word “we” in place of “I”.
Like the dynamic of using we vs. I as explored in this Harvard Business Review article, the word staff to me, is wrought with traditional hierarchical reins. There is a clear boss to subordinate relationship within that word. You do what you do, because I told you to.
If you’re still using the word “staff,” every time someone around you reads or hears this word, you are sending a direct message that reminds them, that they are inferior to you because of your position.
If you’re good with that message and you want those who report to you to remember this, that’s ok. You keep doing you.
Now if you’re with me and see that we as leaders have the opportunity to evolve and grow, like we want our team members to, then let’s agree there’s a shift that needs to happen and start changing it.
We’ll be working little by little at the Academy to update our materials to change references from staff to team or team member going forward.
If you haven’t already made this switch, join me and remove the word staff from your vocabulary and materials, so you can set the stage for your team to flourish going forward.
Director of Member Services
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128