No one knows. People who act like they know actually just want to hear themselves say “human capital.” I’m sure I’ll be hearing from some of them. It is an act of charity for me to give them an opportunity to use the phrase they love, and they are welcome. The different meanings individuals and organizations ascribe to this term are so nebulous as to be essentially incomprehensible. Economists roughly define it as every little thing about you that facilitates your making money. Modern H.R. departments increasingly use it as a prestigious euphemism for H.R. See also: “People Operations”; “Talent & Inclusion.”
Protesting this meaningless corporate designation will not improve your life, and could earn you the reputation of someone who wastes time complaining about inconsequential details. If this manager goes on to create policies that are truly unacceptable (policies that, as you point out, would arrive with inherent C.E.O. approval), you will be glad you didn’t waste your first objection on a quibble about naming.
There is one person with whom you might broach the subject: your new head of Human Capital. Say you’d like to learn more about what aspects of career development the reorganized department is intended to emphasize. This is, of course, a lie, but I guarantee the person who instituted this change has sensational ideas about why it was necessary, and will relish the opportunity to list them to a new audience. You can earn points by seeming to care.
Shall We Pivot to Video?
I started a new job a few months ago at a media company, and it’s horrible. The management runs on power trips, my boss’s expectations are vague at best and impossible at worst, and everyone hates their job. The whole place has a cursed and doomed energy, and I’m already applying to new jobs to get out. That said, it has benefits and good vacation days.
An acquaintance recently asked me for advice for applying to my exact job. (A co-worker got fired suddenly.) I gave her some interview tips, but also told her to check out the (damning) Glassdoor reviews. She’s making her way through the interview process and is very qualified. What is my moral responsibility to tell her how bad it really is? Her options seem to be this job or unemployment, which is how I got here, too.
If you don’t lie, you can’t get caught in a lie. Tell her whatever you want, as long as it’s not a lie. I don’t think your moral responsibility toward “an acquaintance” is tremendous, but even if she were a close friend, it would not be your duty to talk her out of taking a legal, nonhazardous job — especially if it were her only option.
Your mention of a media job with “good vacation days” for entry-level employees caught my eye. I hope yours is one. I’m also aware of the common practice, particularly among start-ups, of offering so-called unlimited vacation. Perhaps for some the policy works as advertised; in my experience, its effect is that employees end up taking relatively little time off, for fear of looking greedy or undedicated. I can attest that I took more vacation in years when my time off was finite than when it was styled “unlimited.” (That’s not unusual; some companies with unlimited vacation set a recommended minimum of vacation days to counter this.) Whatever your company’s policy, make sure you do avail yourself of paid time off, especially since it sounds like your job makes you miserable.