‘Just a heads up – we need an actionable plan for this elevator pitch. No need to deep dive, we’re not going granular here; just give me some back-of-the-envelope ideas and figures – this should be low-hanging fruit. Reach out to me with any questions and ping me your ideas by end of play.’
You’re not alone if the above has thrown you; you’re also not alone if it has bugged you immensely. If, however, you’re questioning why the above is a horrific piece of speech, chances are you’ve fallen under business jargon’s deadly spell, the symptoms of which involve you actively seeking replacements for Layman’s terms on a day-to-day basis.
Originating in the 70s and 80s, business jargon is by no means a new phenomenon; we’ll all have experienced it in various forms, causing varying degrees of annoyance for decades. Whether you like it or loathe it, this lingo has spread like wild fire throughout large corporate offices, start-ups and episodes of The Apprentice alike, and is now part of many people’s everyday vocabulary.
Nowadays we have our online media presences that are the face of our company. While having some business jargon on your website is acceptable if you’re in a niche business, the majority of business should avoid this. Here are a few reasons why business jargon could be hurting your online business:
More often than not, using business jargon is not the clearest way to express something. Take ‘I’m working on a deliverable’ for example; it has no fewer words than ‘I’m working on a pitch’, yet the latter gives us a considerable amount more information. A deliverable could be anything from an article to an audit or a presentation – in fact, it could be anything that has the potential to be delivered. We’d get a better understanding of the size and scope of the task if people didn’t replace its name with a less detailed phrase.
As another example, business reporter Howard Mustoe recently highlighted the use of ‘alignment’ as an odd piece of jargon. ‘It describes looking at things from the customer’s perspective, which ironically would involve using a lot less jargon, because it’s introspective and alienates people’. In other words, it’s a language that we can’t think in, meaning that we can’t understand and certainly can’t speak it easily – so using it will only confuse and alienate our customers. In the words of Mr Watson, writer of Paul Keating’s famous Redfern Park speech, ‘it’s like passing dead cats around … It denies humour, poetry, irony, nor can it inform us because it simply can’t tell us in language we respond to’.
It irritates us
According to a recent study, three out of four staff members are annoyed by business phrases, with terms such as ‘think outside the box’, ‘blue sky thinking’ and ‘hit the ground running’ as the worst offenders. Workers are also aggravated by new words such as ‘presenteeism’, which is used to describe ‘low productivity levels among staff members who have shown up for work but are ill’. (Note – the fact that it needs a definition automatically makes it a ridiculous word to use).
Due to its irritating tendencies, this lexicon is often mocked on television and by workers. The BBC created Boss-speak bingo, a game designed to make light of hearing your colleagues parrot these terms on a daily basis, and there are also sites providing plenty of creative alternatives to replace business phrases.
It’s often used to hide problems
Quoted in a BBC article by Mustoe, the director of Cranfield School of Management stated that ‘we sometimes use jargon to avoid dealing with problems head on’. An example of this comes from Ford Australia CEO Bob Graziano who managed to announce the sacking of 1,200 people without once saying the word ‘fired’:
‘To better position the company to compete in a highly fragmented and competitive market, Ford will cease local manufacturing in October 2016. All entitlements are protected for the 1200 employees whose jobs are affected, and the company will work through the next three years to provide support.’
However, every now and then a business term can provide a useful and likeable word for a not-so-likeable situation. An example of this is the term ‘downsize’ which, as stated by Mustoe, ‘made it normal for those with expensive mortgages to move to a smaller home’.
It’s used to create power and encourage obedience
A recently published psychology article observing the power of abstract language found that speakers who use more abstract language are thought to have a higher degree of power; therefore the more vague terms used, the more respect a speaker gets. The lead author of the study, Cheryl Wakslak, concluded that ‘people see the abstract communicator as more of a ‘big picture’ kind of person’, therefore making them seem more powerful.
Closely relating to this, many business terms such as ‘on point’, ‘double time’, ‘rally the troops’ and even ‘recruitment’ have derived from the military. This once again hints at its use being for power and authority as military language is designed to encourage obedience.
So there you have it – a number of unspoken reasons why we hate online business jargon. Now let’s not ‘boil the ocean’ (sorry); it’s OK to speak normally and to leave the simplest of messages uncomplicated.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.
Powered by WPeMatico