Who knows why corporate culture lends itself to obfuscation instead of clarity? When the very first caveman painted pinstripes on his hide and began gesturing at whiteboard made of stone and crayon, he probably used twice as many grunts as necessary. Maybe the point of corporate-speak is to be slippery: after all, it’s hard to get in trouble with your boss or your shareholders, if you never actually say anything.
(Image Credit: Amador Loureiro/Unsplash)
Regardless of why it exists, corporate-speak is a point of contention for many professionals. Most of us learned the basics of good communication in school. Our teachers told us to avoid the passive voice, for example, and stressed that simple is best and begged us to skip unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. All good lessons – but lousy preparation for the real world, as it turns out, where we’re lucky if we can figure out half of what our coworkers are actually saying.
Recently, we asked Facebook users to share some of their least favorites – anonymously, of course, so that they don’t get in trouble at work. Get ready to cringe:
Let’s Table the Idea of “Tabling”
OP: “Tabling. I hate that. Let’s table that idea. Bahhhh.”
Another user responds: “Tabling reminds me of ‘taking a conversation offline.’ Just because we work at an internet company, it doesn’t mean that makes sense. ‘Taking a conversation offline’ means ‘talking about the people in this room behind their backs in 10 minutes.’”
And another says: “You’re only allowed to table a motion if someone seconds it and you vote. </parliamentary procedure joke>”
Just Call It a Checklist, OK?
OP: “I hate using ask as a noun and solution as a verb, and I hate taking things you’re mentioning in an in-person conversation ‘offline.’ As in, ‘My ask is that we identify opportunities within product today and keep our solutioning offline.’ And ‘giving you your time back’ when a meeting ends early. It’s still my boss’ time. But I think the worst one I found was when I quit my last job. I got an email from HR that said, ‘Your offboarding portal has launched.’ Really? Let’s try, ‘Here is a checklist of things we need you to do before your last day.’”
Another user: “But… ‘offboarding portal has launched’ sounds just SO much more exciting!”
OP: “It sounds like I used to work on a boat with a rocket-propelled window.”
Other user: “You should put that on your resume. ‘Successfully launched and survived an offboarding portal.’”
If Only There Were Only One Example…
“Building the plane while flying it. Ask as a noun. (‘What is the ask here?’) Throwing spaghetti on the wall. On and on and on. …I feel cold and empty a lot of the time.”
Keep It Simple
“I’ve always hated necessarily complicating grammar to sound more… more I don’t know, because it sounds dumb. Like ‘potentiality.’ Seriously? Potential is just fine, thanks.”
“’Solutionize’ instead of just saying ‘solve.’”
“I had a boss who couldn’t use the word ‘use’ but had to leverage the word ‘leverage.’ So, he’d say things like, ‘We can leverage that copy over here’ or ‘I don’t think the customers are leveraging the full potential of product.’ We also did a lot of iterating, which is irritating.”
“I have always been allergic to considering whether the ‘optics look right’ (is this politically risky?). And ‘creating an echo chamber’ (delivering the same message to a decisionmaker). And ‘communications cascade’ (top-down delivery of info, when front line is told last).”
But I Feel Famous
“‘Verticals’ and ‘reach out.’” [See chart:]
“My favorite was at a startup I worked at, where we hired an overpriced marketing firm to consult. They came in and delivered a PowerPoint presentation about how we needed to put a ‘stake in the ground.’ But they must have thought we were a barbecue service, because they spelled it ‘steak.’”
We Know What You’re Doing
“Bio break. I used to hear my husband’s conference calls and they would say they were taking a bio break and then come back in ten minutes or whatever.”
Should This Count as Cardio?
“‘At the end of the day….’ ‘Net-net.’ ‘Hit the ground running.’ ‘Ramp up.’ ‘Circle back.’ It’s exhausting … like we’re doing calisthenics all day.”
No One Is Just a Person Anymore
“University students as ‘educational consumers.’ This was 10+ years ago when I was an educational consumer, so I shudder to think at what they are called now.”
Just Go Away and Do My Job, Will You?
‘I just need you to own this’ – [meaning] I haven’t trained or explained well. Stop bothering me with questions. Just go away and do what I want and by the way … don’t get it wrong.”
Fancier Words = More Money
OP: “When the pedestrian ‘pick’ became the high-falutin’ ‘curate.’”
Another user: “I’m a celebrity and boy, do I have some curated @#$% for you to buy.”
Wild Boar Is for Closers
“So much gold here in sales. ‘You guys are the tip of the spear.’ ‘You’re killing the meat and dragging it back to the cave.’ I actually love that one.”
“Any time anything has ‘synergy,’ I think of Jem and the Holograms. I also don’t like when things are ‘synergistic.’ Because that is just silly.”
Good New: You Don’t Need the Things You Need
OP: “Hospital leadership to nurse’s union last summer in response to requests to hire additional nurses to address critically low-staffed units, and inability to grant/cover vacation time: ‘We don’t have a staffing problem, we have a census problem.’ Oh. OK. Those ‘extra patients’ need nurses too, right…?”
Another user: “That counts as a ‘pain point on the patient journey.’”
Finally, It’s the 21st Century. Why Do People Still Say Things Like This at Work?
“Open kimono – hate this phrase so much. Technically it had to do with men loosening their kimono at the end of the day (so relaxing) and references being open/transparent about data especially, it sounds like something else and should never be used again in my opinion. …Also ‘too many Indians in the teepee’ – yeah, no. Anything culturally insensitive or downright racist/sexist needs the boot.”
Image via Imgur user.
Tell Us What You Think
OK, it’s your turn. What’s the worst example of corporate-speak you’ve ever heard? Tell us on Twitter or in the comments.