This week I’m going to attempt to lose my job. I’m asking: is there anything more ridiculous than management-speak?
Pretentious jargon is changing the meanings of words. At its worst, management-speak is a method of saying something awful but hiding behind a word that isn’t quite a lie but doesn’t fully describe what is happening. “Downsize, instead of “sackings”, for example.
These doublespeak words are seeping into the language like effluent from a fractured sewer and were chillingly foreseen by George Orwell in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. His Ministry of Truth dealt in propaganda and lies, while the Ministry of Love tortured and brainwashed.
While not (yet) as bad as that, there are phrases bandied in large firms which are either meaningless or a mask. “Cascade”, for instance. The passing of information down the chain. You aren’t “told” things by your boss, he or she “cascades” to staff. The inference of something unpleasant being poured on to you is possibly intentional.
“Going forward” means “in future”. “It’s on my radar” means “I’m aware of that”. “Action that”. You aren’t asked to “do” anything, you “action it”, which is pitifully bad grammar. Action is usually a noun although can be an adjective. But never a verb. It’s like English, but slightly obscured.
Some management-speak is an attempt to appear clever. “Mission critical” means “important”, but makes you sound like M from the James Bond books. “Hot-desking” is sharing a desk. “Drill down” is to investigate. “Low-hanging fruit” is easy-to-do stuff. “Ballpark figure” is the bluffer’s version of “I haven’t a clue”.
“Stakeholders” are those affected by whatever you are talking about. It is jargon for workers or customers. Do some “blue-sky thinking” is a pretentious way of saying: “Have an idea”. “Wow factor” sounds impressive but is an exaggerated “good”. “Take it to the next level” means “improve”.
This one makes me openly laugh. To “take a deep dive” is to have a good look.
All of it could be explained in honest, simple terms. But that isn’t the intention. The point is to impress. Somehow, though, users never notice the rolled eyes of ordinary people. It is the emperor’s new clothes of the office environment.
The man who invented sliced bread didn’t say he’d been blue-sky thinking. He said: “Let’s have some toast”. If you have something clever to say, say it. If you don’t, all the fancy words in the world won’t hide that.
Word of the week
A dish of cold meats, cheeses, and pickles. EG: “I ordered the charcuterie in that fancy restaurant but they didn’t serve chips with it.”
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org