LAST week, Ford Australia CEO Bob Graziano addressed the media.
“Ford is transforming its Australian business by accelerating the introduction of new products for Australian customers, enhancing the sales and service experience, and improving its business efficiency and profitability,” he said in a statement.
So far, so good.
“To better position the company to compete in a highly fragmented and competitive market, Ford will cease local manufacturing in October 2016. All entitlements are protected for the 1200 employees whose jobs are affected, and the company will work through the next three years to provide support.”
Catch that? 1200 jobs axed, without mention of the word “fired”.
The speech was a prime example of modern-day business jargon. A collection of “weasel words” that no longer bears any relation to what is actually being said, according to Don Watson who wrote Paul Keating’s famous Redfern Park speech andWatson’s Dictionary of Weasel Words.
“The terms for sacking people have been hilarious over the last 10 or 15 years,” he said.
“Downsizing, rightsizing, transitioning, demising – it’s like killing. Demising sounds like what would be said in North Korea.”
Mr Watson said since originating in the 70s and 80s, business jargon had spread “like a virus” into politics, schools and hospitals.
It initially borrowed terms from science and the military, but has now become so abstract, many people are no longer sure what is being said.
“If Churchill had made his great speech about fighting on the beaches [in abstract language] there wouldn’t have been any beaches or fields, everyone would have gone back to bed,” Mr Watson said.
“It’s language you can’t think in. It simulates thought. It sounds like it’s thoughtful but it’s not. It’s like passing dead cats around … It denies humour, poetry, irony, nor can it inform us because it simply can’t tell us in language we respond to.”
On that note, here’s our list of the worst offenders when it comes to corporate speak. Read and eliminate them from your vocabulary immediately.
1. We’ll park that
– What happens when you can’t find the answer to the question the meeting was called for in the first place. So why are we in this meeting again?
2. Drinking the Kool-Aid
– Americanism that’s thought to come from a massacre in Guyana in 1978 where members of the Peoples, led by Jim Jones, committed suicide by drinking Kool Aid laced with cyanide. It’s now used in boardrooms all over the country to mean don’t buy into something without thinking about it first.
3. Open the kimono
– Meaning: Let’s share information, only much creepier.
4. Brand alignment
– An oldie but a goodie used to kill off many a good idea. As in, “that’s not how we do things around here”.
5. Lotta moving parts
– Or worse: LOMP.
6. Like a duck, calm on the surface and frantically paddling underneath
– Maybe cute the first time you heard it, definitely not the 27th time.
7. Thought leader
– Don Watson’s personal pet hate: “It’s come out of that penchant for team work and buy-in strategies and all that accelerated collaborative events and endless conferencing…with that comes a whole new set of phrases.”
8. And his other one: Outcomes-based education
– “As if the rest of us were educated without regard to the outcomes, and that’s why we’re stupid.”
9. Reach out
– As in: pick up the phone
– Read: boring
– Things are changing, not in a good way. “When you talk about transitioning, that’s a hell of a long way from what it means to lose your job at 50 and retrain,” Mr Watson said.
12. Going forward/Moving forward
– Seared in our collective memory after Julia Gillard repeated it 24 times in five minutes when announcing the election in 2010.
13. We’re not reinventing the wheel
– No, we’re not.
14. Thinking outside the box
– Please, never again.
15. Let’s take this offline
– As in….no I’m still not quite sure what this one means.
16. Paradigm shift
– Best summed up by urban dictionary: “Has no real meaning, but people like to pretend it does”