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Communication in the Workplace

December 17, 2011

How many times in your workday do you deal with concepts that are basically simple and straightforward, yet have been formalized to the point where they seem needlessly complex? I would wager this happens a lot. The overuse of abstract language was dealt with masterfully by George Orwell in his famous essay Politics and the English Language.

Corporate America seems to thrive on this time-wasting principle. But there’s a contradiction here. We don’t set out consciously to do this. So why do we?

One, to make trivial, insignificant things seem substantial. Some new things just aren’t that impactful, but the use of abstract language makes them appear to be so. Two, to hide or shade the truth. This happens often in the world of politics. Using abstract language is often a way to implement something that we would strongly protest if its nature were better described to us in simple terms. Third, to make us feel important or significant. To justify ourselves and our positions.

Did you ever notice now many action parts of speech (implying physical force or movement) are used by people who are mainly desk jockies? People who do ‘real’ work do not populate their speech with these terms.

I submit for your enjoyment a list of business buzzwords with the real meaning appended:

    action items (list of things to do)
    drill down (add details)
    fast track (normal speed but faster than the normal bureaucratic slog)
    game plan (list of work to do or things to do)
    heavy lifting (the person doing the actual work–usually far outnumbered by those ‘leading’ the effort)
    play hardball (be reasonably assertive)
    push the envelope (marginal increase in the level of effort)
    ramp up (stop talking and actually do something)


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