Minimising Corporate-Speak at the Office

Ghalib Suleiman
Ghalib Suleiman
CEO and Co-Founder

As our dear corporation keeps growing, we've come up with company values we'd like current and future employees to display. One of them is 'Speak plainly'.

The modern American workplace continues to give birth to horrendous crimes against the English language. For example:

  • 'I dropped the ball' (plainly: I didn't do it).
  • 'Let's circle back/touch base later' (plainly: Let's speak later).
  • 'Let's double-click on that' (plainly: Please elaborate).
  • 'Learnings' (a particular oddity given the existence of the perfectly-adequate lessons).

There are many others. One of the more cringe-inducing ones is 'net-net', as in 'Net-net, we landed on shipping next month' (plainly: We decided to ship next month). One wonders about how much weekly time could be gained were these communication inefficiencies absent.

Why do people do this? Depending on the phrase, one of two subconscious motivations seems to be at play:

  • Aspirational: saying more words implies a larger role, job, task, or decision for the speaker.
  • Avoidant: being indirect softens the communication of failure. Saying 'I dropped the ball' instead of 'I didn't do it' assumes the speaker was even holding the ball in the first place (putting aside the misleading metaphor of a sports event in which said speaker is playing a central role).

Both motivations fall under the same pernicious umbrella: blurring responsibility. Using such language allows the speaker to deftly avoid direct responsibility of the topic at hand. Continuing down that path, one eventually arrives at that classic office phenomenon of doom: the useless-yet-inoffensive meeting.

And so we commit to speaking plainly as a company value. We hope to live up to it as we continue growing.

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