IN the course of our working lives, we’ve all come across prime examples of people totally out of their depth but who get by and are promoted purely by being able to talk the talk. In other words, they excel at management-speak gobbledygook.
Described in a recent report as ‘garbage language,’ these are the empty buzz words, acronyms and idioms that pop up in conversations in the media, tech, marketing and management consultancy worlds.
And too often used by those who aren’t cut out to manage and so hide behind buzz words and clichés to mask the fact they haven’t a clue what they’re talking about.
The language of business – like that of education and politics – seems deliberately designed to confuse. And, of course, if you don’t understand, you can’t constructively criticise because someone will – rightly and smugly – tell you that you simply don’t ‘get it’!
A friend worked for a company where they’d regularly say, ‘Let’s take this offline’ which completely confused him at first. Turns out this meant ‘stop talking about it.’ In fact, what they really meant was either: ‘I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about so can we talk about this in private so I don’t have to look a right idiot in front of others’ or, more commonly: ‘No, I haven’t done what you asked, but the last thing I want is to let on to a room full of people I totally screwed up.’
And clichés beloved of our politicians? How about: ‘Hard-working families.’ ‘Fairness.’ ‘One-nation.’ ‘Transparency.’ Or: ‘We had a frank exchange of views, and a constructive dialogue on which we now have the basis to move forward, and we are very much looking forward to our next meeting in the light of this progress.’
So, ‘let’s think outside the box,’ ‘run it up and down the flagpole’ and ‘touch base.’ Phew! Whatever happened to plain old English?
Oh yes, but back to the original point: maybe no-one really knows what they’re talking about any more…
Nora Johnson’s psychological crime thrillers ‘Betrayal,’ ‘The Girl in the Woods,’ ‘The Girl in the Red Dress,’ ‘No Way Back,’ ‘Landscape of Lies,’ ‘Retribution,’ ‘Soul Stealer,’ ‘The De Clerambault Code’ (www.nora-johnson.net) available online as ebook (€0.99;£0.99), ibook, paperback & audiobook. All profits to Costa del Sol Cudeca cancer charity.