“After we finalize the work plan, I’ll allocate a resource to work on this project.” my manager said to her counterpart. I realized that she was referring to me, while I sat next to her. At that moment I had become an unspecified human resource.
Initially, I felt surprised to be so easily dehumanized. However, in that corporation’s culture that was how managers routinely referred to lower-rank employees. It’s possible that at the time she considered hiring my replacement or offshoring the project to India. However, a few days later I was “allocated” to the project as I had expected.
This experience led me to do a bit of research and thinking about my role as an economic resource.
One of the primary responsibilities of managers is the efficient allocation of labor and capital, the basic economic resources. In a knowledge-based business first- and second-level managers have limited opportunity to allocate capital. A newly-acquired human resource only requires a cubicle and a PC. The only capital allocation involved in integrating a new employee may be a squabble with another manager over an open cube. The PC is often a hand-me-down from a former employee.
As I thought about the manager as resource allocator, I began to consider myself as a self-allocating resource. Beyond a basic level of compensation, cash or tiny bits of equity may be insufficient compensation for a dysfunctional work environment. At that point I should act as a self-allocating resource and find another job, for my sake and for the success of my current and future managers.