Watch your Language!

Whatever has happened to plain English? In the office environment these days it seems everything is conveyed in “double-speak” – long, complicated words or phrases used where a simple one would do!

In my experience it is managers and senior personnel who are most guilty of this, particularly during staff meetings or when instructing staff members. It’s a growing phenomenon. If they could stop and listen to themselves those who have taken to speaking the corporate lingo would probably have a jolly good laugh (one hopes so, anyway).

Here’s an example of the extreme use of office jargon I’m taking exception to:

“So, it’s time for us to get our ducks in a row and drill down into what the feedback on this game plan has been since the get go. Once we have the granularity we can move on in real time to decisioning which issues we need to loop in to the narrative, so that we can productise actions going forward.”

Simply put, what he/she is saying is:

“Let’s source opinions of our plan. When we’ve got the details we can decide what the problems are and how to deal with them.”

In case you think that I am being overly sensitive and that things are not really that bad in our boardrooms, be comforted by the fact that I am simply taking up the baton of the Plain English Campaign which has been “fighting for crystal-clear communication since 1979”.

On a special section of its website devoted to Management Speak, the Campaign posits the reason for this growing trend for business people to speak in jargon and buzzwords. It’s pretty much as I expected – a survey has found that many corporate staff use management speak to sound more impressive, cool and to disguise the fact that they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s all a bluff!

It’s also a lot of fun … so much so that, in fact, you can use this business jargon to entertain yourself during one of those interminable meetings where your superiors are probably spouting off some self-important management speak.

Simply take along your laptop, tablet or mobile to the meeting and you’ll be all set to play Business Buzzword Bingo! Call up a bingo card, listen carefully and click or touch on any of the buzzwords that appear on the card as they are spoken in the meeting. When you’ve got five buzzwords in a row (a bit like tic-tac-toe) in any direction, then you’ve achieved Bingo with the lingo! Start again with another card.

Like all of us, I suppose, I have my personal “pet hates” when it comes to business speak. I despise being asked if I’d like a “comfort break”, instead of to use the toilet, and I detest being told to “ping” a message across to someone – what’s wrong with the proper four-letter word, “send”?

Also, like all of us, I am guilty of using more of the buzzwords than I’d like to: Never mind. It’s a big ask, but I’ll try to zero in and take ownership of the challenge, making sure I action using more vanilla speech asap.

Which business buzzwords do you catch yourself using, and which words or phrases really get your goat?