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Respect for People or Humans?


“Respect for People.”


This a common phrase that I see a lot. Every time I see this, I get puzzled. My coach said the following.


“Respect for Humans and humanity.”


I am not an English native or major. Yet, “people” and “humans” are different.


“People; human beings making up a group or assembly or linked by a common interest. Merriam-Webster”


This was the first definition that came up from Merriam-Webster.


And my understanding of “human” is very “Scientific.”


If so, isn’t there a risk of using the word “people”?

And, what is the challenge of using the word “human”?


I do not intend to criticize the use of “people.” I just wanted some attention to compare to “human.” Try to surface the risk and challenges that we still have.


As I worked in different factories, I encountered strange use of the word “People.” Here are some examples;


1. There was a plant with a terrible process. As soon as I observed that process, I tried to get engineering to change it. This didn’t happen again and again. Eventually, the engineering manager told me;

“Can you be nice to my people?”

I didn’t understand. The engineers had working hours from 9 to 4. Air-conditioned. Great chair. Happy talking with coffee. I did not use any offensive words. I didn’t mean to destroy any of that.


But what did the process look like? An operator was cutting a metal part with a manual saw. The manual saw breaks often, and they need to change. Hot and humid. A water bottle that is warmed up. Standing directly on the floor, no mat.


I was asking for a machine to cut that piece. An engineer will say that such a machine is not in the original plan. Finance told me no budget. I tried to see if this process was a safety violation, but it was unclear. And when I tried this process, this was a crazy painful process.


How can they ignore such pain? So the operator is not part of “people”?


2. I was watching a video of a supplier, and I saw something interesting. So, I asked the engineer why we didn’t do the same. He looked at the video and said, “that process requires a chemical that is not allowed in this country.” “Then, why is the supplier doing this?” “Those are not our people.”


3. A natural disaster hit.

A senior manager made the following comment (Summary).

“We need to protect the safety of the people. Office workers do not need to come, but production and logistics workers need to.”

There was an outrage (for a good reason). Later, this manager apologized. But that disaster day, the manager and the office were empty while the factory operated.


There are so many more examples that I ran into, which puzzled me what do people mean?


Isn’t there a danger of the word “people”?

“People” usually means a group whose definition of who is inside is subjective. The nuance that I feel is “us” and “they.” The group changes depending on the topic. I feel this change in the word's scope is risky.



“Human” can be understood as species to which we all belong. The scope can be scientifically defined. And significant progress in this definition allows us not to have “us” or “they” when we use the word “human” (I believe). This is why we have this term called “Human rights,” which is supposed to apply to all human beings.


But we do have a problem.


Understanding “Human” in a scientific way is enormous work. Is this agenda of humanities, social science, or natural science? Probably, all of them. I studied “human rights,” but in the end, I am still confused about what it is. And, since the scope is so enormous, some tend to oversimplify. A perfect example is the “Human resource” office which only does hire, pay, and fire.

I acknowledge the danger of the word human. However, the scientific challenges towards defining the word make me more attractive to use when we say “Respect.” We need a scientific approach to defining what “respect” means. And as science develops, so does its meaning of “respect.” It is a process of continuous improvement.



I do not intend to criticize the use of “people.” I just wanted some attention to compare to “human.” Try to surface the risk and challenges that we still have.


Finally, this is what my coach, who paid attention to these two words, always said;

Respect human. We, humans, have limited time. Don’t make them waste that precious time.

Respect humanities. Our humanities are unlimited. Continuously develop such capabilities.

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