Corporate Jargon; It’s Totally Uncool

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Corporate Jargon; It’s Totally Uncool

What is Corporate Jargon?

To an outsider, the language spoken at large multinational corporations can sound strange. Corporate jargon often used by senior managers, are words and phrases full of euphemism but with rather unclear meanings. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, management consultants invented words and phrases to confuse and quell discontented workers. Essentially, these were creative marketing terms used to spin bad news as good. To the millennial workforce of today not only is corporate jargon unintelligible, it is totally uncool!

The Evolution of Corporate Jargon

Through the 1970’s and 1980’s, corporations transformed to take advantage of a developing global economy. This was a particularly busy time for management consultants. They help companies become efficient across multiple branch plants. Workers became essential components for generating profit and Corporations started referring to them as “human resources”. Communication became very important to ensure these resources remained productive. Senior managers lead teams of workers through motivation. They delivered fiery speeches using seemingly important words and phrases that few understood. And humanity gave birth to the words “Low hanging fruit” and “the bottom line”. 

Over time, corporate jargon trickled down through layers of corporate structure until everybody started using it. This is how the most junior person found their fit within corporate culture. Consequently, the use of corporate jargon allowed ordinary workers to feel smug and intelligent.

The Language of Firing Workers

The most insidious use of corporate jargon also came into existence during this era. Management consultants developed a shiny new suite of words to managing firings. Human Resource departments across the world implemented words like “Streamlining“, “Restructuring” and “Downsizing“. This evolved so much that term “Firing” is now considered obscene. It is virtually non-existent in corporate documents, today.

And this is the most likely reason why corporate jargon started losing is lustre. These alternative terms did little to soften the actual sting of a firing. They were obviously words created by corporate executives to obfuscate the truth.

All of this gave rise to small protest groups like the Plain English Campaign. Since 1979, they have used a combination of both gravitas and humour to draw attention to the problem of confusing language.  Their copywriters create clearly written documents for organizations, featuring their Crystal Mark stamp. And they also hand out the infamous annual “Foot in Mouth Award” for baffling quotes by public figures!

Modern Corporate Language

Today, management consultants have come around to recognizing the need for simple and clear communication at work. Corporate jargon is snickered at and, thankfully, on the demise. Almost every business magazine in recent times has published a list of the top office phrases that need to die. Millennials roll their eyes when they hear “core competency” and “blue-sky thinking“.

And none of this could happen too soon. It is not just irritating to listen to. For too long, this jargon has enabled incompetence to thrive within corporations. It has allowed CEO’s to bluff and deliver little to their workers. And it has permitted unproductive workers to get away with a job poorly done.

It is time to stamp out corporate jargon once and for all. Let’s just speak plain English, already.


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