Wash Your Mouth Out: No More Management Speak

The lingo ‘business jargon’ and ‘corporate speak’; even the words to describe it are irritating. The vague and confusing language that is management speak has been dubbed a ‘pointless irritation’ in a poll of over 2,000 managers. The Institute of Leadership and Management survey found that 64% of offices are peppered with corporate jargon but not everyone is down with the lingo.

‘Thinking outside the box’, ‘going forward’ and ‘let’s touch base’ were voted the most overused phrases but despite their prevalence business speak has developed into a whole language that begs the question, what does that even mean? And does it have more serious connotations for the world of business than just another office annoyance?

are you confusing or clarifying?

Of course, not all business terms are confusing. Every industry has its own specific vocabulary using terms needed to explain particular ideas or processes but they are only useful when everyone involved understands what they mean.

If you’re going to create a secret language, the first thing you want to do is ensure that everyone got a copy of the dictionary. While it’s natural for all languages to change and evolve – remember the first time you saw Twitter? – having clear methods of communication is nowhere more important than in business.

But why does corporate speak elicit such extreme responses; faces twisted into grimaces and intense feelings of nausea at ‘end of play’ or ‘drill down’?

is everyone included?

Like any new vocabulary you don’t understand, it’s offensive because it excludes.

The clicks and whistles of the young are upsetting to many because they put up a barrier that certain people can’t cross, making the older generation feel separated and, worse, old. In the same way, a company that has management speak seeping from its pores are excluding those that don’t use or understand it.

By using phrases like ‘We’re going to sunset that project’, are you really getting across your message clearly to everyone at the table, or are you leaving everyone with ‘what?’ faces.

The principle behind George Orwell’s Newspeak was that removing complex vocabulary would mean complicated thought was impossible; that language is so closely associated with an individual’s thought processes, a limited vocabulary leads to limited thought. With this in mind it’s easy to see how vague management speak can result in confused staff and an unclear direction.

is your business strategy just words?

Corporate jargon is most often used to hide gaps in knowledge, to fudge through a meeting, to refuse to say those scary three words, ‘I don’t know.’ If your planning meetings are a fog of jargon and buzzwords will everyone leave motivated and engaged? Will they be clear on exactly what their role is and what tasks they are responsible for?

A clearly defined business strategy needs to be specific and practical, taken out of the elusive, wishy-washy words of the corporate world and into the definite world of plain English.

Think less “High-quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for the facilitation and enhancement of on-going learning processes in adolescents.”

and more “Children need good schools if they are going to learn properly.”

The message is, if you are going to use corporate jargon, think about your reasons behind it. Are you being as clear as you could be or are people sniggering behind their hands or frowning in confusion?

Make sure that everyone around you firstly understands what you’re saying, so they can at the very least enter into the discussion.

See if you’re a terminal offender with the Plain English Gobbledygook generator. If it sounds anything like you, you’re in trouble. Remember, with business speak, less is most definitely more.

Have you heard any incredible examples of management speak? Share the best (or worst) you’ve heard in the comments below.

Featured image by KJGarbutt