In a comment on recent Blog post "Words We Love to Hate," Vocabulary.com user Sarah S. referenced the dreaded language of corporate speak: "Words like leverage, gamification, user interface, audience engagement, strategise...when I see the words align with my aorta nearly pops!"
There's a reason these corporate words rankle. First of all, they are often perceived as taking a simple idea and making it sound complicated. Second, they're associated with managers (for many, this is "your boss") putting a euphemistic spin on something fairly odious. Think: downsize, layoff, or the elimination of a redundancy.
Sarah S. is not by any stretch of the imagination the first person to take issue with the language of corporate ladder climbing (or ladder clinging, as the case may be). Check out previous posts on this blog, "A Nasty Bit of Corporate Speak" or "Weird Words from the Corporatese Lexicon," TheOfficeLife.com's Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary features portmanteau gems such as anecgloat (anecdote + gloat, meaning a self-promotional story) and "blamestorming" (blame + brainstorming, meaning a a discussion of what went wrong) prefaced by the caveat, "We can only hope that you're not here to actually add buzzwords to your vocabulary." And Dr. Michelle Mazur makes a blunt pronouncement on her Relationally Speaking blog: "Corporate Speak Must Die." Even corporations themselves are getting in on corporate speak-bashing; the hotel chain Wingate by Wyndham is currently running a radio ad suggesting their waffles dripping with syrup will make you forget the meeting you're dreading with "that client" who likes to use corporate speak terms like circle back and shifting the paradigm.
So if hating these terms is so universal that corporations themselves are mocking them, why is corporate speak not frowned upon in meetings, trainings, and all the places where it appears to grow and thrive? Business executive Jeff Shuey, who writes for the PersonalBrandingBlog.com, suggests an answer when he makes an argument for mastering the vocabulary associated with any position you aspire to: "Knowing the slang will enhance your ability to maintain credibility. It will increase your ability to connect and perhaps to secure a job. It will also put others at ease. They’ll know you are part of the same conversation."
Read his full column arguing that vocabulary learning extend into adulthood. His advice might be worth taking. When you hear an unfamiliar term, stop to ask what it means, write it down, learn it, then use it. Unless the term aligns with something that will make you or Sarah S. pop an aorta.
- Rate this article: