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No business jargon please, talk sense managers!

Last updated on: August 31, 2011 14:11 IST

No business jargon please, talk sense managers!

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Shyamal Majumdar
All of you must be in regular touch with Alpha pups, make elevator pitches, adopt blue-sky thinking, avoid boiling the ocean and learn to cut out the need for brain dumping by making HQ more task-oriented.

Pardon this babble, but this more or less summed up the speech of a large company's marketing director at an induction programme for management trainees.

The gentleman concerned went away satisfied, but what he left behind was a bunch of confused souls.

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One unintended consequence of that speech was that the management trainees got their first on-the-job experience of "glazing" - corporate-speak for sleeping with your eyes open, which is a popular pastime in early-morning meetings.

Half the room was glazing by the time the third session of the induction programme started.

What the mind-numbing business jargon of the marketing director meant can perhaps be summed up in plain English in the following paragraphs.

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All of you must be in regular touch with trend-setting young people (Alpha pups) who are important targets for marketing guys at a time when the consumer profile is getting younger.

To keep buyers' attention alive, all of you must make short sales pitches (elevator pitch), imagining that you are in an elevator for less than 30 seconds.

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No business jargon please, talk sense managers!

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The response from a trainee to the "elevator pitch" was, however, not so motivating.

"Every time I am in the elevator, no one talks; so I assume what Sir really meant was that just stand in the corner, look at the indicator panel and be very quiet," the trainee says.

All of you must have an open mind as wide and clear as the blue sky (blue-sky thinking) and think about original ideas unfettered by conventions.

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To this, another trainee retorted: "The dictionary meaning of blue-sky thinking is thinking that is not grounded or in touch with reality. So I assume what the director meant was airy-fairy ideas."

All of you must avoid going after an impossible task and focus on simple things, meaning don't make something so complex that you can never accomplish your goals (corporate-speak for boiling the ocean).

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No business jargon please, talk sense managers!

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No one is sure about the origin of this phrase that was popularised by American commentator Will Rogers. When asked how the US should handle the problem of Nazi U-boats, during World War II, Rogers recommended that the ocean be boiled.

When pressed for exactly what he means, Rogers, a part-time management consultant, replied: "I am just the ideas man. It's your job to work out the details!"

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No business jargon please, talk sense managers!

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Finally, the most difficult one. What did the marketing director mean by "cutting out the need for brain dumping by making HQ more task-oriented?" Apparently, the answer is the simplest: it means speed up communication and make the workplace more efficient.

The marketing director is not alone in using such vacuous administrative jargon in the workplace.

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No business jargon please, talk sense managers!

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Listen to any CEO speech or browse through a corporate manual, lucid communication seems to have given way to mindless spouting of meaningless jargon.

So companies after companies don't have people anymore or even employees they have only "human capital".

Or, sample this gem from a CFO. When asked about the likely completion date of a key project, the CFO replied the project's conclusion will become more apparent as the tasks become increasingly more finite.

And the company has a track record of delivering the deliverables on or before the deliverable delivery date.

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In effect, what the master of corporate gibberish said was that while the company has a track record of finishing projects on time, he had no idea when this particular project would be completed.

George Orwell had said the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. By that logic, most managers use such coded communication as a smokescreen that sounds smart but is empty of meaning to others.

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No business jargon please, talk sense managers!

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And most of the time, such corporate-speak is used to hide either managers' inability to say anything useful, or to intimidate outsiders or newcomers by creating an impression that their job is something extraordinarily complicated.

In some cases, such jargon are used as an easy way out to acquire the aura of a superstar.

The HR consultant, who told me the story about the marketing director's speech to management trainees, also said it's nothing but an exercise in futility since today's youngsters know exactly when to call the bluff.

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This was evident from the frequency of "bio-breaks" (their jargon for going to the toilet) during the induction programme.

Several of them also told the consultant, who met them for a feedback session, about their desired mastery of "assmosis" - jargon for a process of career advancement by kissing up to the boss rather than working hard.

That should be reason enough for managements to toss their verbal clutter into the nearest garbage bin.



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