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Chris Mooney (Chartered MCIPD)

Right Trax Training Ltd

Learning & Development Consultant

Read more from Chris Mooney (Chartered MCIPD)

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The Art of Speaking Easy


Let’s socialise the concept of getting rid of corporate jargon and instead just saying what we mean…it’s got legs.  By Right Trax Training

When did corporate jargon become such an epidemic?  There must have been a time when it didn’t exist, when we just had plain and simple conversations with each other…mustn’t there?  Then some bright spark felt the need to a) cover up their lack of knowledge and / or b) make themselves look big and clever. 

A new book, Dictionary for Business Bullshit by Kevin Duncan (LID Publishing, £9.99), claims to be ‘the world’s most comprehensive collection’ and offers up 2,000 of the phrases and business terms that we have all dipped into at some point.  One of our favourites:

Potential 1. What can be achieved 2. Polite word for all the things an individual could in theory do, but never has; wishlist of unfulfilled promise; gap between claimed performance and reality; uncomfortable shortfall between CV and working truth; ethereal chimera that may never be realised; dream (see Maximize)

Let’s be as clear and un-jargony as possibly: using these meaningless buzzwords only detracts from whatever message you are trying to get across, lessens your credibility and makes you look and sound like a complete fool.  Everyone in the room agrees.  They may be smiling and nodding, but really they’re thinking one of two things: “what an idiot” or “what on Earth does that mean?”  Oh and they’re laughing at you behind your back too.  Harsh, but true.

Here, in good humour, we offer alternatives to some common business speak:

Instead of "Let's keep it on the radar": Gosh yes, that's a really good point.  We must remember that for sure.

Instead of "Float the idea": Why don't you ask a few people and see what they reckon.

Instead of "We need everyone on the right bus in the right seat going in the right direction": Where to start!

Instead of "Buy-in": Let me tell you my idea.  You may wonder why you're only hearing about it now.  Well that's because I didn't deem you important before, but now I do, so I want you to pretend that you're in this from the start.

Instead of "Put your arms around it": You seem hesitant to take on this piece of work, but you have to because I'm your boss and I say so.

Instead of "Socialise the idea": See "Float the idea"

Instead of "Opportunity": The thing is, there's this bit of work that I don't want to do and I want you to do, so will you do it for me?

And even sadder (but funnier), is when bad jargon goes wrong…consider these real-life examples:

  • “It feels like we’re going off on a tandem.”
  • “We don’t want to put all our chickens in one basket.”
  • “That could open a cavern of worms.”

So next time you hear yourself about to “reach out”, “touch base” or “run it up the flagpole”, go ahead and do it.  Just don’t say you’re doing it.

Let’s not take it offline…tell us your funniest or most infuriating jargon in the comments below!

Right Trax Training are a training, development and consultancy business who are passionate about helping other businesses be successful through their people and teams.  They can help your people to communicate clearly too!  Get in touch to find out how.

Author Profile Picture
Chris Mooney (Chartered MCIPD)

Learning & Development Consultant

Read more from Chris Mooney (Chartered MCIPD)

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