Saturday, 24 May 2014

Corporate Speak – The Erosion of Eloquence Spells Disaster

Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something – Plato

“I will have to get buy-in from the assessment team on the performance metrics before we leverage a best practice so for now, let’s take this off-line.” If there ever was a non-statement, that’s it. Not only is the sentence full of senseless jargon, the mere utterance of those words portrays the speaker as a ridiculous nit-wit.

Too often business climbers seeking corporate glory and recognition attempt to elevate their position or detract others from realizing their ignorance through ill-contrived corporate buzzwords. Hoping a few strategically placed catch phrases will attract and retain the attention of their audience, speakers are abandoning substance for what they assume is acceptable style. The problem is we are getting accustomed to rhetorical messaging rife with grammatical errors and clichéd vocabulary.

At one time or another, we've probably all been guilty of latching on to some of these senseless buzzwords, but if we’re not careful, it will set the standard. Well for those of you who strive to preserve a higher standard in effective workplace communication, spread the word - it’s time for corporate jargon to buzz off.
Corporate speak often takes the form of buzzwords and catchphrases that aren’t truly understood by the author and make even less sense to intended audience. The trend toward inappropriate and meaningless language is serving only to impede effective communication. The following selection of colourful clichéd phrases has but one result. It attracts attention to the speaker rather than to the message itself, (if there even is one). Is it that we have to work harder to create a rapport with the audience, or is the average attention span waning? If both assertions are true, it appears that adopting corporate speak is a lazy way of communicating. It implies the English language is too complex or difficult to manage without condensing it into trite expressions. Here are some of the worst examples:

1.    “We need to think outside the box.”  Lose the box, just think.

2.    “We have a lot of room for organic growth.” When applied to
         inanimate or abstract entities, this sounds absurd.

3.     “We will impact our market share.” Give up on making this noun a
          verb. Learn the proper use of effect and affect.

4.      “We are leveraging our assets.” This is a other example of a noun
           trying to be used a verb. Consider using the word in the proper
           context by saying “We can use our assets to apply leverage.”

5.     “We will need employee buy-in.” Here is the notion of agreement
          from a subservient source. It’s a disingenuous expression that is
          contradictory. How is support generated from a participant who has
          no role in the decision-making? Avoid this phrase altogether.

Give mechanical corporate lingo the boot
Changing the way people speak means changing the way they think and that’s good for business. Corporate ideology can be by nature, quite mechanical. What is needed is a humanistic approach. Striving for clarity in workplace communication both internal and external, will improve the substance of key messages and ultimately raise credibility too. No one wants to admit they don’t understand the regurgitation of technical jargon and when it’s used to excess, the end result is a message without meaning or integrity. Corporate lingo is used to lend justification to principles about which the communicator isn’t sufficiently educated. The assumption is that to adopt such language implies a credibility not necessarily earned.

Making the case for meaningful vocabulary
Spouting rhetoric that uses terms like “key deliverables, cross-functional teams, and paradigm shifts” exemplifies lunacy not literacy. If the purpose of communication is to deliver one’s key message in the most clear, concise fashion, shouldn’t that be the primary goal? Why muddy the waters? If you’re sure you are impressing your audience, think again. Repetitive and senseless corporate jargon offends and annoys many people. If you want to truly engage your readers, start with language. Stop using the corporate “we” and speak simply to people.

Tips for more effective communication
It’s time to let the ship of verbose promotional rhetoric set sail. Staying afloat with your competitors or maintaining credibility with your staff are goals you can achieve without the buoyancy of inflated and meaningless expressions. Readers want to know you care about them. If you acknowledge their value through simple, clear and coherent conversation, not only will the message get across, it will strengthen your reputation. Do you really think readers are captivated by corporate lingo boasting “best-in-class” solutions or “ground-breaking innovations”? Those phrases don’t say anything concrete except to infer, it’s all about us not you.

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