Where have all the staff gone?

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’.

Mind you, they still get awarded ‘Employee of the month’. (At once, both an achievement and an embarrassment.)

Who else is in on the act?

There are staff entrances, and there are Marks & Spencer ‘colleague’ entrances.


You’ve heard of Team America and Team GB. Meet ‘Team Door’. This is in a nondescript pub in north London.

Call them baps, wraps, subs or snacks, but one thing Subway isn’t famous for is sarnies.

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.

Surely ‘Authorised human resources only’?

Any other examples?


Filed under Stuff

11 responses to “Where have all the staff gone?

  1. I’m thinking of getting a t-shirt emblazoned with the legend: “DRONE”. Not only because I am one; rather because I do.

  2. Well, that was grammatically inept. Apologies.

  3. bravenewmalden

    Stop droning on! DYSWIDT?

  4. Dom

    I quite like the inhuman and efficient ‘personnel’. It reminds me of the wonderful exchange in Dirty Harry – a movie that captures the politics of hierarchies beautifully (undervalued staff member wants to get the job done effectively, but is stymied by bureaucrats, administration and politicians) – when Harry is rung by someone in personnel. They want to give him a desk job, you see, because he has been shooting too many people when out of the office. A bit like how Kevin used to behave in off-site client meetings.

    Man on Phone: ‘…so anyway, Harry, there’s a job potentially going in Personnel…’

    Harry Callaghan: ‘Personnel? Personnel’s for a55holes!’

    Man on Phone: ‘Hey! I work in Personnel!’

    Harry Callaghan: “Exactly.’

    • bravenewmalden

      Well remembered. Substitute ‘human resources’ and they’d have needed a different joke entirely.

  5. On this side of the pond, we see “associates” a lot. There are no salesmen any more, just “sales associates.”

    (P.S. I had to look up “sarnies.” Thanks for the vocab lesson, my dear British associate!)

  6. When MacDonalds announce redundancies do they refer to it as a crew-cut?

  7. I actually loled (lol’d?) at the Team America/Team Door wisecrack. Haven’t John Lewis folk always been partners? Don’t they get a piece of the company when they join up? Am I imagining this? Who hit me? Where am I?

  8. bravenewmalden

    Yes, I mentioned that about John Lewis. Didn’t I? Have I been hit as well? Oh, and I was told earlier that people who work at Disney Stores are the ‘cast’.

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