We believe that corporate-speak is a dangerous starting point that may eventually lead us to Orwellian doublethink. After all what could possibly be the purpose of using the words “going forward” in place of “in the future”, if not to convince employees to believe the past never happened. Some of our favorite management buzzwords and euphemisms below.
From the Guardian:
Among the most spirit-sapping indignities of office life is the relentless battering of workers’ ears by the strangled vocabulary of management-speak. It might even seem to some innocent souls as though all you need to do to acquire a high-level job is to learn its stultifying jargon. Bureaucratese is a maddeningly viral kind of Unspeak engineered to deflect blame, complicate simple ideas, obscure problems, and perpetuate power relations. Here are some of its most dismaying manifestations.
1 Going forward
Top of many people’s hate list is this now-venerable way of saying “from now on” or “in future”. It has the rhetorical virtue of wiping clean the slate of the past (perhaps because “mistakes were made”), and implying a kind of thrustingly strategic progress, even though none is likely to be made as long as the working day is made up of funereal meetings where people say things like “going forward”.
2 Drill down
Far be it from me to suggest that managers prefer metaphors that evoke huge pieces of phallic machinery, but why else say “drill down” when you just mean “look at in detail”?
Some people despise verbings (where a noun begins to be used as a verb) on principle, though who knows what they say instead of “texting”. In his Dictionary of Weasel Words, the doyen of management-jargon mockery Don Watson defines “to action” simply as “do”. This is not quite right, but “action” can probably always be replaced with a more specific verb, such as “reply” or “fulfil”, even if they sound less excitingly action-y. The less said of the mouth-full-of-pebbles construction “actionables”, the better.
4 End of play
The curious strain of kiddy-talk in bureaucratese perhaps stems from a hope that infantilised workers are more docile. A manager who tells you to do something “by end of play” – in other words, today – is trying to hypnotise you into thinking you are having fun. This is not a game of cricket.
What you do when you’ve actioned something. “Delivering” (eg “results”) borrows the dynamic, space-traversing connotations of a postal service — perhaps a post-apocalyptic one such as that started by Kevin Costner in The Postman. Inevitably, as with “actionables”, we also have “deliverables” (“key deliverables,” Don Watson notes thoughtfully, “are the most important ones”), though by this point more sensitive subordinates might be wishing instead for deliverance.
Calling something a “problem” is bound to scare the horses and focus responsibility on the bosses, so let’s deploy the counselling-speak of “issues”. The critic (and managing editor of the TLS) Robert Potts translates “there are some issues around X” as “there is a problem so big that we are scared to even talk about it directly”. Though it sounds therapeutically nonjudgmental, “issues” can also be a subtly vicious way to imply personal deficiency. If you have “issues” with a certain proposal, maybe you just need to go away and work on your issues.
Read the entire article following the jump.