Not just funny, its stress

Reads the epitaph of one-who-saw-and-left:

“People at work can't understand why I'm leaving office life to be a carpenter. It's because it's not rocket science, I won't have to re-invent the wheel, I won't have to find a window of opportunity, and thank the Lord - I'll never have to touch base with anyone ever again.”

He who speaks jargon takes it very seriously. But perhaps business jargon is famous because everyone makes fun of it? In the perfect world, even those who speak it. It’s the business guys’ most famous export to the world of normal talk. Where words still meant something and people paid tax for gibberish-like output. Everyone feels a bit of abhorrence-induced humor towards business jargon. Everyone who? Scott Adams, his evangelists, break-aways from business-drone and born-again thinkers who have worked jargon their whole life and now it gives them gastric ulcer. That does sound like a convenient truth.

It is easy to make fun of jargon. All you have to do is smile / guffaw all day. Implying that jargon is being spoken every minute. However, business jargon is sheer stress to many human beings. Why else would Deloitte (an unlikely exponent from the world of management consulting - the very seat / Mecca/ Holy Grail of “business bull”) devise a software program called Bull Fighter which claims to “seek out and destroy" corporate double-speak and pointless jargon.

Some years back, former tech giant Marconi was given a Golden Bull award by the Plain English Campaign (I did not make this up) for a particularly opaque company announcement. It said: "The benefit of having dedicated subject matter experts who are able to evangelize the attributes and business imperatives of their products is starting to bear fruit." Pretty much every molecule in your body flipped over on hearing that. Mine did. Everytime someone uses subject-matter-expert on me, these molecules flip again, as if on cue.

There is just this thing about business jargon. How much business jargon leads the listener to react with, “why didn’t you just say so?”. This is not the spoofy adamism that characterizes how Scott Adams has taken the underpants off business jargon. This is regular, normal people using jargon in the workplace across levels, prompting mass reportage of “hey stop hitting me so hard!” Why speak in PowerPoint, when there is good old Swahili out there. Did I say Swahili? Are you in excruciating pain? Ok, then English.

The whole nine yards, still counting

I have heard these, so I don’t have to make them up. People who are sound in mental health suddenly turn rabid on unsuspecting co-workers. Like the sheriff shooting his citizens, right after the town’s annual community-service ceremony. Its important to give jargon a rap on its knuckles for complicating the most simple things in our life, starting with junior school mathematics.

The pointless - Can you divvy up the work?
Translates to - Can you divide the work amongst us? Divvy, really? Sounds like the seven dwarves, not? Grumpy, Dopey, Divvy, Plus-ee...

The evergreen – “Can we touch base on that later?”
Translates to - There are so many normal, legal ways of saying this that I should not even attempt to enumerate them. My personal reservation is that a friend of mine has completely ruined “touch base” for me by making some very profane references to it.

The high-end - This is high-end.
Translates to - What do you say about this that has not been said before? Gods of business gobbledygook - what is high-end? Is it the west-end of my foot ruler? Is it how high my dog would jump to bring home the bacon ;-)? Is it a pair of deuces in a game of poker? I find it exceedingly difficult to understand how anyone (or rather everyone) has used this to describe (just their) work. I also struggle to keep a straight face when I say it because I feel at least one member of the audience is calling me on “high-end” as I say it (God, I hope, I hope).

The really sad part is that they (always those guys :-)) may actually be right. The work, sure as rain, could actually be high-end. By invitation only. But when I hear the word “high-end”, I think it cannot be. I tune out thinking about strawberries in cream and Goa in November and free movie DVDs. MEGO. My eyes glaze over. MEGO is right up there in sexy internet jargon. And so much cooler than corporate jargon.

Now the heavy artillery: Full sentence jargon

The showstopper – “I need to have visibility into the project resource requirements before I commit something like that.” Or some version of this I think. It is spoken to paralyze the listener.

Whoever says this usually means – “so how strongly does my jaw line resemble God’s? Heck, I have no idea right now how many people and of what skill I will need. You need to let me work on this till December before I can tell you that. Or did everything stop making sense to you after Sunday?”

The meeting tingle or the meeting tingles or the meetings tingle

For some people, and oh yes, there are such people, office meetings are the fount of their existence. They rise, shine and explode in a sort of operatic culmination in meetings. In short, if they are bad outside, watch out for them inside. Entire paragraphs are expended where thirteen words would have sufficed. The release-r of obscene verbosity makes your heart ache for a conversation with the yellow vending machine.

  • If there is no agenda to the meeting, be warned of hijack

  • If there is miraculously an agenda to the meeting, be warned of hijack

  • Practice being able to close your mouth quickly and not leave it agape. You need strong reflexes for this. You need to look involved and not unconscious.

  • Whatever you do, don’t clap. Even if your feelings are “wow Daisy, you surpassed you!”

  • “Meetings vocabulary” is like the air inside the last flight we took to Shangri-La. The air has not changed since someone clamped the sides together and carpeted the floor. You will hear a lilting Fibonacci series of the same 56 words - value, leverage, we-will-always, we-will-never, status, change, change management, resources, key, timeline, work plan, process, see-we-are-at-this-point (this point is usually a rhombus on a white board), the three cowboys called issues-constraints-bottlenecks, and their uptown cousins strategy-methodology-result-orientation and with-all-due-respect.

The ideas probably made sense in the head. But then someone zapped them into an unidentifiable mass of gooey, living, insane, fungal poppycock. Jargon brings down the best ideas and intentions because of an impossibly wrong combination (probably the least applicable) of words. By someone who is interminably wannabe but wont-ever-be.

However, in the interest of jargon (meaning we lose) is the fact that, well, everyone uses it. Ever since conversations went straight out of the window, and jargon vocabulary went from being inconsequential to critical, things changed.

When we speak sense, its not jargon. When its jargon, it just is.

Business bull, therefore, is not an animal. Alas. Otherwise we could tell it to heel and potty-train it, in the very least.


Anonymous said...

You did not write that park about the carpet in the meeting room! great stuff.

Anonymous said...

I have read that piece about carpenter. It was in the BBC. God this jargon sucks.