I used to own a t-shirt emblazoned with the word STAFF. I’d wear it to work sometimes. Ironically, of course.
Then one day I was out of a job and wearing the t-shirt would suddenly have been very ironic indeed.
Was that around the time that the word ‘staff’ started to take on pejorative connotations? Because it seems that today, companies don’t employ staff any more. Well, they do, but they call them something else.
I think the John Lewis group was first. If you work for them, you are officially known as a ‘partner’. There’s a valid reason for this. The company is owned by a trust on behalf of all its employees, who each receive a share of annual profits. The difference between ‘staff’ and ‘boss’ isn’t as clear-cut as it is in most companies.
‘Staff’ doesn’t convey the necessary dynamism required of its staff by McDonalds, so they go by the showbiz-meets-gangland name of ‘crew’.
Who else is in on the act?
Are these euphemisms used throughout the company, do you think? Does Subway offer its staff ‘Artists’ Discounts’? Do McDonalds staff sometimes go on ‘Crew Outings’? (No.) Would that pub in London apologise for poor service and blame the fact that they’re ‘underteamed’?
While we’re at it, have you ever wondered what happened to ’employees’? Well, they all left at the same time as the staff. In through the revolving door came their replacement, ‘human resources’. The personnel manager was replaced by an OH-SO-SINCERE VITUPERATOR…sorry, was replaced by a well-meaning human resources manager.
Or, more likely, by a whole department of them.
The decline of ‘personnel’ means this sign, from the Royal Festival Hall, clearly needs updating.