A pharmaceutical company president was quoted in the Tribune the other day: “The functional organization that we had was suboptimizing our business and our ability to adapt and respond.”
This kind of yammering goes right through me. It seems intentionally designed not to be clear. And it always makes me wonder, when I hear that business blather, what is this person trying to hide? Why would she deliberately choose words that make it difficult to know what she’s talking about?
And yet it goes on all the time. You see a lot of it in the newspaper’s Business section. And on LinkedIn – in the articles and comments and in people’s profiles. And in presentations, for that matter. Corporate honchos – and middle managers who hope to be honchos someday – stand up in a conference room and deliver drivel that communicates nothing much.
Clients sometimes tell me they feel pressure to prattle on like that, to incorporate the jargon du jour. They get caught up in paradigm shifts and moving the needle and wrapping their heads around a net-net that’s a win-win at the end of the day. Oy.
For people in transition, this stuff can be a landmine. If you’re on the outside looking in, it sometimes helps to speak the tribal language. You want to be accepted into the fold, after all, and it’s reasonable to think it will help to sound like someone who would fit in.
And yet so much of business-ese is really nonsense.
Whether you’re writing or speaking, you’re much better off to be crisp and clear and conversational than to resort to the lingo that drains energy and clarity and individuality from your work.
Funny thing is, I’m not the first person to say this. Google “business buzzwords” and you’ll find a slew of articles from language purists exhorting professionals to stop already with the corporate clichés.
For years now, communication experts have been decrying the dismal state of language in the office and the board room. The clichés. The vague, say-nothing phrases. The trite talk borrowed from the athletic field.
And yet, the old jargon sticks around. (How long have we been teeing things up and thinking outside the box and – ewww – opening the kimono?)
And new biz-blab emerges all the time. “Amplify” is all the rage now. Along with “ladder up,” “the sharing economy” and anything in the cloud.
If you want to have some fun with all this, check out the Corporate B.S. Generator. It offers ambitious professionals a way to dazzle all the execs at their next meeting. I’ll warn you, though, it can be addictive. On my first try, I got “quickly optimize top-line leadership skills.”
If you want to make a strong impression on your reader or listener … try plain, unaffected English. Short, direct sentences. Words that say exactly what they mean. Phrases that would roll off your tongue naturally if you were talking to someone who knew nothing about your business.
In the end, that kind of straight talk is more impressive that the blather that people pass off as brilliance.
Declare your intention to get rid of the professional prattle. Or just tell us your favorite bit of business blather.