Jargon busting management

I’ve been reminded recently that the use of jargon or management-speak is alive and well.

In a recent conversation with a potential user of my services,  it was casually mentioned that people were “leaning in” more than they anticipated and so help was needed.  I had no idea what this person had just said “leaning in”… people inclined? What does it mean.  It must be profound to have become an important topic of our conversation.  After a bit of internet digging, I found it may have meant using, or supporting. Then why not use this more simpler form?

Secondly, several publications have promoted a recent list of most used jargon terms, I reproduce one for you here. A new survey of 2,000 business travellers has revealed the 10 most hated items of “management speak”, the jargon that invades board rooms, marketing meetings and professional emails.

The 10 most hated jargon phrases in the book “Bacon Wrap”

  1. Touch base offline (let’s meet and talk)
  2. Blue sky thinking (creative ideas free from practical constraints)
  3. Punch a puppy (do something detestable but good for the business)
  4. Thought shower (to come up with several ideas)
  5. Thinking outside the box (thinking creatively and innovatively)
  6. It’s on my radar (I’m aware of it)
  7. Close of play (the end of the day)
  8. Singing from the same hymn sheet (all in agreement)
  9. Peel the onion (to examine a problem in detail)
  10. To wash its own face (to justify or pay for itself)

Other repeat offenders not included in Bacon Wrap’s top 10 include “to circle back”, to “action” something and to “reach out”.   This jargon seems pretty pernicious as in 2013 the Telegraph put together a list of hated jargon, and funnily enough all the 2013 terms made it onto the 2016 list.

I think we all like to be considered insiders, part of the group, and the use of jargon can do two things- firstly it signals a special language that only certain people know. Setting up insiders and outsiders.  Secondly, it is supposed to indicate that you are “up to speed” with the latest trends (“up to speed”- informed or up to date) and management fads. Showing that not only are you a member of the in-group but that you are also well informed of what sets you apart.

But to get both real understanding in your businesses and to be more inclusive, try to avoid all this jargon-speak. Unless you’ve invested a new fantastic new simile, try to avoid the tired phrases that get passed around as jargon, and just stick to the plain facts, if you want to talk afterwards, just say that… avoid touching base off-line for the time being… well unless you are a baseball umpire and you need to realign the stations in your baseball diamond.

Regrettably the person who wrote the jargon busting book, is chief marketing officer for a series of hotels which they describe as “a forward-thinking, business-focussed hotel brand”… seems we are all victims of jargon and the odd tired phrase.  Maybe a bit more creativity needed in future?