It’s not rocket science.

A friend sent a review for a book on unhelpful business jargon, titled, Who Touched Base in My Thought Shower: A Treasury of Unbearable Office Jargon by Stephen Poole.

Some of the prime offenders for the author Poole are; journey, back-fill, going forward, leverage, no-brainer, sunset (as a verb), workshop (also as a verb) and zero cycles – which is a new one on me. Zero Cycles is now used to explain our limited time. It works like this; How many time cycles do I have to spare? I have zero cycles, mate!’

Recently another friend told me that one of her reports refused to do something by saying, ‘I don’t have the bandwidth to help you right now.’ As Poole writes, these are polite and groovily technical ways of saying: “Bugger off and don’t ask me again.”’

Thought shower is also a new one on me and apparently replaces brainstorm, which has now been deemed offensive by some people.  (No, I don’t know who they are, but I just hope they never run the Social Club).   

Another colleague loathes anyone telling him that they are reaching out when they are simply calling him on the phone. “And must they tell me they’re touching base when the words contacting or calling will do?”

Why, I wondered, did a contractor keep telling me he had ‘smashed it’ when referring to fairly mundane tasks he had just completed? 

Clearly others share the cynicism about office language because versions of Buzzword Bingo have been in circulation for a while. Cards are easily drawn up if you wish to play. The idea is that you distribute slightly different cards to fellow insurgents before a meeting, or just play a card you’ve created in secret. You can call out ‘Bingo!’ as soon as you’ve drawn a line between words or phrases such as blame culture, synergy, mindset, best practice, ‘at the end of the day’ or value added. You could add even more squares to your bingo card with pivot, low hanging fruit, disruption, stepping up and thinking outside the box. 

Please tell me, or ‘ping me’ your least favorite buzzwords or any new and annoying phrases you’ve heard creeping into the language of the workplace via zooming and hybrid work.  Oops – there I go again.  

12 thoughts on “It’s not rocket science.”

  1. Mumbo jumbo, meet Faddy Daddy , or Baddy, or Maddy.
    Ups kill. Just say no. Nancy Reagan.
    Thought shower. Get your brain washed with no risk of drowning.
    Bring out the helpful business language. Like MK Gandhi on “Western Civilisation”, “I think it would be a very good idea”
    Silos are giant receptacles for the diversion of Botanic reproductive effort from its proper course. They are anti Onanic , seed unspilled above the ground.
    So breaking down the silos is a vote for masturbation. Here endeth your bandwidth allocation. Have a nice day.

  2. Some think they are talking in metaphors when really they are talking in riddles. I’m probably as guilty as anyone after 30+ years of immersion (there’s another one – I haven’t been literally immersed). Clarity should be the goal, not deliberate Brent/Appleby obfuscation and circumlocution.
    As to my current worst offenders: ‘reaching out’ makes me think ‘retching out’
    ‘Green shoots of recovery’ sounds slightly ridiculous, but getting more daft-sounding with use

  3. Mine is solutions. Financial solutions, drainage solutions, fencing solutions. For God’s sake, they are drains and fences, not drainage or fencing solutions. Where did it come from? Somewhere in the 1990s?

  4. Hi Guys, just reaching out to you all with my thoughts. Or to put it another way – hello,

    Firstly, “Hi Guys” when my husband and I are so greeted in a shop I always make the point of looking round to see who has joined us in the queue. Why don’t they say Hi Girls? It would make a pleasant change. And, heads up? Is that an invitation to toss a coin? We have a particularly irritating catch phrase in the UK, all because of an advert for wood preservative “it does what it says on the tin” – it’s what is politely called overused.

    The problem with jargon is that if not immediately questioned people can go on for months in a world of PIPS, SKEWS, WIPS and not have a clue what people are talking about, if they know themselves. If you don’t question it quickly enough its too late and you go on, in the fog. It took me a long time to realise that LOL is not Lots of Love – at first I was very confused at this affectionate sign off to emails and texts.

    And no-brainer, ugh, worse than Fit for Purpose and even worse that I used it once.

    Anyway, good to have touched base and I’ll say TTFN which in the UK is Ta Ta For Now.

  5. Not exactly management mumbo jumbo, so apologies if I am derailing the thread, but I am irritated by the glut of books published listing all the things you should see/do “before you die” – as opposed to the list you might have planned to do after the said termination.

  6. Loved the read. Oops, have I already done it? These type phrases have become so intertwined with IT consulting, that in order to appear to be a good consultant you must speak in this type
    ‘consultant speak’. On my last project alone I know I used ‘reach out’, ‘value add’, ‘touch base’, ‘leverage’ (and not the old Timothy Hutton TV Show), ‘synergy’, ‘alignment’, ‘go forward plan’, ‘framework’, and ‘provide guidance’. We even build these terms into our customer-facing (oh, another one) PPT presentations.
    To ‘mitigate’ the length of my reply while ‘capitalizing’ on the opportunity to response, I’d like to suggest a framework, and provide guidance, to develop a go forward plan that supports synergy and provided value add, while touching base with other colleagues, leveraging their input. Whew – I did it!!!

  7. It extends beyond corporate lingos.
    Can anyone explain to me how a whole industry has sprung up devoted to “wellness”?

  8. I notice that certain companies I deal with have a cultural vocabulary of jargon words, plus a jungle of acronyms for their hierarchy and processes. One phrase that always jars, which features heavily in a company I work with, is “point forward” meaning from now on. Some of my colleagues have adopted it as they go native, use of the term is contageous, I resist being somewhat contrary.

    After a while you begin to lose your memory of the perfectly good words we had and start to wonder if you only dreamt them

  9. And that phrase “in terms of” when all we need to say is “re” or “regarding”. Language has always changed and evolved and new generations “coming through” will want to say it their way – the technological super age will bring a rich supply of phrases and descriptions – can’t wait. I used to love Drop the Dead Donkey and think Gus Hedges typifies your point: “We’re running our bulletins through the cappuccino machine of innovation – to see if it comes out frothy”. Or to Jill: “would you come for a brief scuba in my think tank”. Is this any better than “bring your own re-cycled cup of ideas to the immersive and aesthetically unique computer pod, followed by appropriate emoticon”. I think not!!! 😀

  10. I always want to break into song when someone says “reach out” in my presence. Usually Diana Ross.
    Another of my favourites is “deep dive”. I recall one time I’d been working for months on something quite complex, and a senior individual wanted to meet me for half an hour so he could “deep dive” into the subject of my labours. I was supposed to feel honoured. As it turned out he “didn’t have the bandwidth” so cancelled at the last minute.

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