Estimated reading time: 3 mins
People say the dumbest things, right? Especially in the workplace! The invasion of consultant-speak means we all have to sift our brains for the meaning of what should be a simple statement of words. I don’t know about you, but I have had enough…
I recently decided to monitor myself for using bullshit language in everyday business. It surprised me how often I used it. I had to slap myself! Since I started, by contrast I’ve noticed how often colleagues and managers try to sound clever by using words and phrases that most lay-people don’t know the meaning of.
I’ve also discovered that I can still articulate myself effectively, and maybe even better. The truth is, corporate bullshit doesn’t really impress anyone, and is more likely to confuse people. Plus, the invasion of corporate bullshit also means that if somebody doesn’t understand what is being said, they’re often too embarrassed to ask, and they would rather allow the conversation to go on in ignorance.
The worst of it is that whilst writing this post, I am continually hitting the delete button to wipe out the very same bullshit that I am standing against! I hadn’t realized how habitual it is.
I wonder, though, if I am being too hard on the use of corporate speak. Is it just me in a mood, or are well all a little bit fed up of it?
I don’t think so. If you have seen the ‘Bullshit Bingo’ game you can play during business meetings, then you’ll know that there is a growing intolerance, and mockery, towards it (download your Bullshit Bingo card today!)
Here is a funny case. OK, it’s perhaps childish and silly, but it proves the point. Some years ago, a manager in the organization I was working in (I’ll call him Dave to avoid using his real name) liked to mop up corporate bullshit. If he heard a word that sounded clever, then he would use it too. Often completely out of context. Now me and my buddies decided to play a childish prank. We made up several words that had no meaning at all and began to drop them into conversation with this manager. Within a week, he was using these words too. To his embarrassment, he would use them with his boss, who happened to be the CEO. He fell foul when the CEO asked for clarity, and he couldn’t give it! (If you’re reading this, Dave, you know I have apologized many times over!)
I think enough is enough. When somebody uses corporate bullshit with you, then make a point in asking for the real meaning. Even if you really know what it meant by it. Why? Well what about the next guy who hears it? Will they understand? Will they ask? And what if the word of phrase being used is really misunderstood by the person using it? If it’s important to understand what is being said, don’t leave that to chance!
Can you sniff out the BS? Discover the real meaning behind those bullshit phrases in this very funny book: The Dictionary of Corporate Bullshit: An A to Z Lexicon of Empty, Enraging, and Just Plain Stupid Office Talk. It’s 192 pages of side-splitting humor on the everyday bullshit that has invaded our workplaces!
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4 thoughts on “The Dictionary of Corporate Bullshit”
Hi Simon – sorry I’ve been out of the loop. The summer got very busy both personally and professionally and both took much of my bandwidth. I’m actually looking forward to the winter to catch my breath.
I couldn’t help by comment on this post. I think you are spot on with this one. While certain “bullshit” words can function as a sort of shorthand to create a shared understanding, I think by and large both consultants and employees rely on jargon and consultant-speak way too much. It’s a kind of crutch we use instead of expressing ourselves in plain english (or german, or french, or …)
I think the opportunity hear for all of us is to stand out from the crowd by speaking plainly yet intelligently about the matter at hand. Not only will you probably be seen as having a stronger grasp of the issues, but I think you stand a real chance of bolstering your, dare I use the term, personal brand. In other words – you will stand out from the crowd in a positive way.
In a complicated world, any effort to simplify for those around us is appreciated.
Hi Dave! – it’s a crutch that works, I think, whilst we lack confidence. ‘Bullshit’ gives us some comfort (although temporary) that we’re one of the crowd and can speak the lingo, right? Once our personal confidence grows to the point where we don’t need the crutch, we can throw it away, and speak plain language knowing that we can always fall back on the jargon if the situation demands it in order to bring clarity to the folks who can understand it.
Ultimately, business value is created with business people – where the revenue manifests – and these guys couldn’t really care about how much we know, just what we can deliver! You must see this happen all the time in your business.
I agree with your statement on personal brand Dave. I would like to be known as someone who can speak to all levels of people in the organisation able to get the message across clear and unambiguous.
I am in IT, and I’ve noticed that the most successful IT people are able to describe often complicated subjects in simple terms by using examples and analogies and definitely without jargon. Whereas the peeps who use jargon are viewed by non-IT people as the geeks and basement-dwellers.
@Asif – great observation. It’s possibly a question of experience and maturity. I remember back when I was a junior IT professional and it seemed that the more jargon you knew, the better you were at your job. This still happens today. Perhaps it’s a healthy thing in one way as folks at this stage tend to strive to build up their knowledge and the context it fits in. It’s only when there is confidence that knowledge creates business value does the language change!