Madbot’s Workplace Observations – 4.1

Posted by Madbot on Apr 12, 2006 in Workplace Observation |

There is a recent Slashdot post on ‘Corporate Speak invading the IT department’.

It’s a clear case of ‘Bullshit baffles brains’ syndrome described in an earlier article – ‘Madbot’s Workplace Observation – 4 – Bullshit baffles brains‘ This slashdot poster has been fortunately enough to avoid this situation and thinks it’s a recent development.

Many posters who commented on this post shared the same thoughts. From poster Simon:

An example from one of my previous rants on this topic: “You can use the leviathan forces of attention and enthusiasm that are swirling around Web 2.0 these days as a powerful enabler to make something important and exciting happen in your organization.”

This is a fairly typical management-speak sentence but what does this actually mean? The sentence essentially boils down to a simple statement: You can use new technology as an opportunity to improve the operation of your business. I think most would agree this is an obvious, uninteresting statement and this is precisely the point I’m trying to make. People who use this language are trying to sell you something that’s obvious; to sell the emperor his own clothes. If somebody can’t make their point in plain english then they likely don’t have a point that’s worth hearing at all.

So how do you fight it? I find the following techniques work:

  1. Ask them to explain what each term means. Example: What is Web 2.0 anyway? I haven’t seen a new W3C standard called Web 2.0.
  2. Repeat what they just said in English. Rather than agreeing with what they said get them to agree to your formulation of the statement instead.
  3. If your in a position of power, if anybody submits a proposal to you using flowery terms, get them to revise their language. Tell them why you think clear language is important.

I love our language and I love the mutual heritage shared across the many countries that speak it. Work with me to remove this cancer from our workplaces because our language is part of who we are. We simply can not allow something so abhorent to become part of our definition.


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