Tuesday, August 22, 2017

These 5 common phrases you might use at work can be highly offensive

The language jungle just got more complicated -- more than enough for one day.  From the Leftist "Salon.com", well known for being unable to pay its rent

Below are a few phrases that, regardless of intention, can be marginalizing.

Low-skilled labor

Thanks to our Cheeto in Chief, this one’s been getting lots of press recently. Investopedia defines “low-skilled labor” as “a segment of the workforce associated with a limited skill set or minimal economic value for the work performed. Generally characterized by a lower educational attainment, such as a high school diploma, GED or lack thereof, and typically results in smaller wages.”

While these jobs traditionally involve lower wages, they also require lots of practice and mental focus. Occupations that people often refer to as low-skilled” include cleaning, farm labor, grocery clerks, and retail employees.

Why is saying “low-skilled” not okay? Well, the term suggests that these jobs don’t require any brain power—which means the people holding them aren’t intelligent. Yet in reality, folks with these jobs are doing hard work to support themselves and their families. As a recent piece for Remezcla showed, numerous people turned out on Twitter after the Trump debacle to give a face to those who are “low-skilled:”

The term is dehumanizing, and should be reconsidered. One possible rephrasing is “manual workers.”


The definition of “urban” is “Of, pertaining to, or designating a city or town; living in a city; characteristic of or accustomed to cities; citified.” Note that urban does not mean black. Yet somehow, the two words have become conflated. Companies have “urban marketing” departments. “Urban” music is music that’s tied to black culture. However, urban environments are not entirely composed of black people. According to Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, 39 percent of African Americans live in the suburbs, 36 percent live in cities, 15 percent live in small metropolitan areas, and 10 percent live in rural communities. In reality, the most “urban” race is actually white. If you’re trying to address minority and/or financially distressed groups in your business, use the correct terminology.

You guys

This phrase is so common that it can be difficult to stop using. However, it’s a damaging one. When you’re speaking to a mixed-gender group, saying “you guys” puts the attention solely on the men. Do you want to do that? Of course not! It’s important to make sure that everyone you’re addressing feels seen and acknowledged, regardless of gender. Male-centric language subtly hints that women are lesser.


The American Disability Act has asked for the word “handicap” to be replaced with “disability.” Why? Because the word handicap is othering. It makes it seem as though people in that group are different, when in reality a person can become disabled at any time. As Jill Layton notes on Hello Giggles, “ It can happen to you, your friends and any of your family members, at any age. It can be a fluke accident, a botched surgery, an illness, etc. No one is immune.” Other phrases for disabilities that are workplace appropriate include special needs, physically/mentally challenged, people with disabilities, or people with limitations.


People often use the word “ghetto” when they mean “bad.” This is not cool because it directly associates the inner city with being lower-class or subpar. “The problem with the word is that it’s very difficult to disassociate it from its use to characterize low-income African Americans,” says Mario Small, a professor of sociology at Harvard University, in an article for the BBC. “Thus, when ‘ghetto’ is used as an insult, it often sounds like a racial insult.” Instead of saying ghetto, get more specific about what you dislike about the situation or place.



Anonymous said...

"Cheeto in Chief" This phrase automatically makes me discount any other words this person offers. What if Obama was called "Tootsie Roll in Chief"?

Bird of Paradise said...

i can still remember when some nuts were upset of the term ITS A JUNGLE OUT THERE and wantrd RAINFORESTS put in its place and some nutcase wanted PET SHOPS to change to COMPANION ANIMAL SHOPS and for Zoos to be renamed WILDLIFE CONSERVATION PARKS(What Idiots)this P.C. poppycock is getting well out of hand

Bill R. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill R. said...

As a maintenance man, I have been called "non value added" more times than I can remember. Why? Because everything I do costs the company money as opposed to the machine operators who make money for the company. I never took offence to the term. Of course they don't realize that the longer I take to fix something, the more downtime it has and they can't use it to make money.

Spurwing Plover the fighting shorebird said...

Liberals,Snowflakes Etc i can remember when we called them Sissies

Dean said...

Tootsie Roll in Chief! ROTFL

I must finally admit it. My name is Dean and I am totally unwoke. The image that came when 'urban' was mentioned was that of large cities with lots of traffic, gobs of people, businesses and buildings. Black people didn't even register.

My son said a temporary set of shelves made up of some 1x12's and blocks looked ghetto. "Yeah," I said, "they're pretty rough looking, but they'll do until the set I'm building will replace them." Never even thought of Jews or black people.

For years I've considered the essential tremor that make my life difficult at times a handicap, not realizing doing so was making me appear different. I shall refer to it as a disability from now on so I'll be just like all you people with steady hands. What a relief.

Low skilled labor. Hmmm. There may be a point there. Who determines what skills are low and which are high? Guess I'd go along with Salon on that one. Dang it, I hate to do it, but once in a while everyone gets something right. Even Salon.

Malcolm Smith said...

If a horse is "handicapped", it can still win the race; it just has to try harder. But if it is disabled, it is out of the race altogether.

Anonymous said...

Bill R.: It sounds like your bosses also ignore the fact that your repairs keep them from spending the extra money to replace the equipment you fix, which I'm sure would be a lot more expensive in the long run. I don't know about economists, but I consider people who can fix machines of all types, cars, electrical, plumbing, etc. to be skilled regardless of where they learned to do it. And, I consider them a vital part of society and our economy.

Stan B said...

"Low Skill" work does NOT require a lot of brainpower - and I'm sorry that hurts the feelings of the broom pushers, the burger flippers, the Amazon product pullers, and the fruit pickers. "High Skill" workers are usually the problem solvers - the ones who have to figure out how to do complex tasks.

And no, "low skill" workers are NOT economically valuable because of the laws of "supply and demand." The whole point is that I can hire literally any moderately functional person off the street and train them within minutes to do the job at a profitable skill level.

A "maintenance man" is NOT "low skill," if he is truly maintaining and repairing production equipment.