Remember this morning: You walked into your office, turned on your computer, sipped demurely on your 31-oz Trenti Starbucks latte and logged into your email where you were greeted with an email that began with “per our conversation” and was followed with something like this:
We provide operational support and strategic direction; we do this by providing high quality, comprehensive training resources, direct hands-on assistance via our main office, 24-hour direct phone support [Feel free to skip to the next paragraph] via our anonymous call-center; we also provide business process analysis and innovative problem solving by leveraging experienced and technical resources available in the main office…(53 words)
On a good day, Mark Twain would have called this “fluff and flowers and verbosity.” Had he lived to see 2012, surely he would have called it “management speak” or “corporate jargon,” or something much less genteel. Call management phrases what you want, but you stopped reading after the second line, didn’t you?
Were we to humble, to strip the fatty tissue from the above “sentence,” it would probably say something like this:
Our staff is available 24-hours a day to support the diverse needs and schedules of our employees. (17 words)
If you said, “Yeah, but the first paragraph just sounds so much better,” remember how you felt when you opened a similar email or heard your colleagues say, “per our conversation,” or talk about “tabling” a meeting or “touching base” with some “idea showers” as they “hit the ground running.” Once you’ve done that, go back and reread the first paragraph.
Why Do We Use It Then?
Google “office speak”; you’ll find no shortage of tongue-in-cheek articles, “management speak” translators and compilations of “The Top 10 Management Phrases You Love to Hate.” But let’s get serious for a minute, people. Why do we use it? Here are a few of our guesses, but feel free to chime in and offer your own.
- Let’s face it, we all use one form of discourse (way of speaking) when we speak to our boss and another when we speak to our friends. Like other discourses, office speak is a legitimate and meaningful form of communication; it just has to be used in the appropriate context and with people who speak the language.
- It fills space and allows us to hide behind buzzword-laden language and makes us sound like we’ve got everything under control.
- Saying what we mean can make us feel vulnerable, our ideas disheveled and silly. Office speak = office armor.
- Being direct means that we’ve committed, that we have to get behind what we say and will follow through.
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