Get Me Out of the Claptrap

The Sydney Morning Herald, My Career

“We’re going to focus collectively as a group to streamline our growth so we can hit the ground running with a win-win. You know what I mean?’’

No. I have absolutely no idea. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat in a meeting, heard a manager regurgitate buzzwords onto the boardroom table and then nodded as if what he said was perfectly understandable.

Enough!

I can pretend no more. In fact, it is time we all stared our Directors of Jibberish in the face and delivered the truth in plain English: ‘‘You don’t make sense!’’

Buzzwords and business jargon have infected our offices. They crept in through our air-con vents and now everyone in the building has linguistic legionnaires’ disease.

We must act swiftly and decisively.

Phase one: Quarantine the CBD. Seal every cubicle with soundproof glass. Round up the CEOs and make them listen to themselves on continuous playback until they tear out their own eardrums. Savour sweet revenge for several minutes.

Phase two: Deploy a Cliché Containment Taskforce. Earmuff-clad volunteers will patrol the streets, wearing acronym-repellent suits and carrying megaphones. ‘‘Guesstimate is incorrect!’’ they’ll yell at gagged managing directors. ‘‘Guess and estimate are separate words that shouldn’t be joined. You’re not conducting a merger here.’’

Seem drastic? Let me tell you how critical the situation has become. Things are now so bad, my co-workers are using buzzwords during conversations that have nothing to do with business.

Picture this typical Monday morning. It’s 9 o’clock and bleary-eyed employees are assembled around the coffee machine.

‘‘So, how was your weekend?’’ asks Co-Worker One.

‘‘Overshot the mark with drinks on Saturday night but took the recovery to a new level the next day, so, yeah, pretty happy with the end result,’’ replies Co-Worker Two.

But of all the ridiculous phrases bandied about my office, ‘‘in terms of’’ has to be the most overused.

‘‘In terms of coffee, would you like one?’’ queries Co-Worker One.

Another staff favourite is the suffix ‘‘wise’’, as in ‘‘How are we doing budget-wise?’’ Each day, my co-workers are under the pump time-wise, so lunch-wise, they often skip it. I’m still waiting for someone to say: ‘‘Wise-wise, it’s a wise decision.’’

Point-wise, let’s get to it. Why is this level of language acceptable? You could never write these nonsense terms in print because they don’t mean anything. Yet for some reason, it is fine to use these pseudo-words in a boardroom. In fact, if you don’t use the vernacular of box-ticking and paradigm-shifting, people assume you’re inexperienced.

That guy over there? He speaks in clear English; he obviously hasn’t had management experience. If he had, he’d integrate up-scaled sentences and value-added acronyms for greater ROI.

Well, buzzword abusers, I’m here to put you ‘‘in the loop’’. You don’t make sense. Unfortunately, even a statement that pointed can’t penetrate the mumbo jumbo lining your skulls. So here it is in your own tongue: going forward, buzzwords are a lose-lose.

Get the picture?

This article is available for re-publication. Email greg.foyster@gmail.com for details.