Are We Overdosing on Corporate Jargon?

January 19, 2018 Joe Britto

If the January gloom is getting to you and you’re looking for some frivolous fun you could do worse than try out this corporate bullshit generator. You can have a laugh at the nonsensical corporate speak it generates. “Intrinsically transition seamless relationships” and “holistically simplify cloud-centric ideas” are just a couple of the more ridiculous examples. You probably have your own pet hate when it comes to meaningless corporate jargon. My own are taking it offline – translation: we’ll pretend we’re giving it lots of thought but we’ll never get back to it. And fit for purpose which suggests effectiveness without really saying anything.

There are lots of eye-roll inducing examples. But the problem of corporate jargon goes beyond gobbledygook spouted by management gurus and vacuous mission statements. We know it’s irritating but there’s a bigger problem with such empty and meaningless language pervading modern business.

The real problem with corporate bullshit is that we hide behind it because it creates the impression we know our stuff. Without us having to actually demonstrate that through what we do.

The Rise of Corporate Claptrap

How did we end up with so much jargon affecting our work lives? Well, the rise of corporate jargon is often associated with the ascendancy of management consultancies throughout the last few decades. And the ever changing business fads they encourage. Introducing a “new” concept to a business? Well of course you need new language to go with it. Cue meetings and presentations where there’s lots of talk but very little meaning.

And if senior people are using the language it will start to spread throughout the business. We’re social animals so our urge to fit in is strong. Couple that with people’s desire to rise up the leadership ladder of an organization and you have a recipe for corporate jargon spreading despite its lack of meaning.

Corporate speak gives us a fake cloak of competency instead of using the behaviours of a leadership mindset to lead flexibly and courageously.  Using jargon filled language limits our thinking and inhibits flexibility of mind and genuine curiosity. It does this by providing a ready-made language and concepts that we think within. The result is that we don’t have to stretch ourselves, question the status quo or think critically.

A Leadership Mindset = Ditching the Corporate Jargon

I don’t always agree with much of NLP, but the name itself, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, does hold water when we look at corporate jargon in a leadership context. The words we use shape the way we think. This is especially true for leadership. Embodying a leadership mindset is hard enough and made harder if we allow hackneyed phrases and meaningless jargon to inform our thinking.

And the reality is that people see through the faddy corporate speak infecting their workplaces. Even if we find ourselves using it we know it stops us thinking critically. But the good news is there’s a hunger for real and meaningful leadership across organizations of all kinds. People are looking for honesty and authenticity in leaders. They’re looking for a beam of light through a fog of corporate bullshit that obscures meaning. And when they see honest leadership coupled with honest language they’ll reward it by bringing their best work to the table.

So if we start by using real and authentic language when we speak we’ll be taking the first step towards meaningful leadership.

Now that’s a mission statement I can get behind.


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