The Power of Plain Speech

I was recently asked about some of my favorite examples of “office BS:” those impressive-sounding but ultimately meaningless words and phrases causally dropped in boardrooms and corporate hallways around the globe.

Some of my “favorites” include:

  • “Managing Expectations” roughly translated to: “tell people why what we’re going to give them will suck, but convince them it’s what they really wanted in the first place.”
  • Adding the prefix “re” when not appropriate. I’ve frequently heard that something needs to be “replaned,” but nearly fell over when someone suggested “rereplanning” a project.
  • Then there’s the whole syndrome of turning people into machines, from suggesting a conversation be taken “Offline” (I wasn’t aware a meeting or conversation was an “online” experience) to asking someone to “ping you” (how will sending a network test packet accomplish anything) and incessantly asking about “bandwidth.” While many people I’ve worked with occasionally act like androids, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and not use machine-related terms when dealing with them.

I think the reason this kind of stuff is accepted in the corporate world is that there’s almost a “thieves code” in operation: I’ll use words that sound important but make no actual sense, and give you the same privilege if you don’t call me on it. While I would not suggest calling someone out every time they use “office BS,” it is easy to stand out among the crowd by speaking clearly, concisely and not throwing around the equivalent of a verbal truckload of manure when talking with colleagues. People appreciate concise and honest speech, and you will make a far more positive impression than being the first person in the office to suggest “A 360 degree paradigm shifting blue ocean strategy that will add right-sized value to our corporate DNA.”

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