Thursday, April 04, 2013

Putting business speak in your office's swear jar


Meaningless phrases regularly slip into the wider lexicon through office culture. You know, yawners like, “I’m looking for everyone to give a hundred-and-ten-percent. We need team players who work hard, have good attention to detail…”
The language of bull – otherwise known as business speak – is so expansive that it’s possible to form whole paragraphs that make total sense grammatically but communicate very little, other than the speaker's lack of imagination. What’s worse, we all get caught up in it sometimes, either because it’s safest to play along with the boondoggle, or because it’s the linguistic equivalent of the plague

Either way, it needs to stop before our entire language becomes infected with this trite, meaningless guff.

How do you know if your statement is a common-sense pearl of wisdom or meaningless drivel? The golden rule is this: if the opposite would sound ludicrous, then your statement is probably dross.

Take for example a statement such as, “I’m looking for a positive outcome,” or “I’m a team player.” These may sound like simple, valid statements of truth. But who isn’t looking for a positive outcome? Who would claim not to be a team player? A sadist or a sociopath, that’s who.

Stating the obvious is the ultimate way of saying something while actually saying nothing at all. It’s a waste of time and oxygen, just like a proclamation that you’ve not murdered anyone this week, or you’re not going to throw yourself from the top of the building. 

Only by tackling the root of the problem – business speak in offices – can we prevent it from poisoning our language outside the office. So what offices need to do in order to rid themselves of all this dead air is the equivalent of a swear box for clich├ęs. Moving forward, this would be a positive outcome.