Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Workplace gibberish

A friend recently sent me an email in jest.

Mark, sorry I haven’t been in touch for a while. But I’ve been striving to drive business forward, leveraging the upper quartile and focussed on securing some milestones

I replied.

I'm glad you touched base to give me that heads-up, sharing your learnings with reference to key personal deliverables and critical imperatives.  Yours, insincere bull!

And his response.

Good to see our symbiosis means we’re on the same wavelength. Because as a goal-orientated self-starter I’m committed to dovetailing my blue-sky thinking with pushing the envelope through this window of opportunity to achieve results-driven outputs at the high end of expectations, just outside the box. High five !!

Today the BBC website carried an interview with the footballer Joey Barton, (now playing for a club in France) speaking in a ridiculous Allo-Allo accent. It's common to see folk doing the same on holiday and I suspect management gibberish is similarly contagious. Once one person starts saying benchmarking when they mean to compare, or learnings when they mean knowledge, then hey, it's almost rude not to join in.

But when it comes to memos, does anyone think writing ' in order to drive revenues a critical imperative is to improve our customer-facing manner' is better than simply saying 'to increase sales we must first improve service'?

In truth, I don't think they do. It's partly a matter of limited time, and in bigger part, a blindness to the words. Most managers write as if they are talking to fellow managers, regardless of the audience. I once saw a memo from a Chief Executive (not mine I should add) to his shop floor workers. It incorporated quotes from Machiavelli and made reference to his love of Latin at school. He closed with, 'I hope you've enjoyed learning a little more about your new leader'.


That's not my judgement, but an assessment of what I suspect his staff thought.

I suppose at least he was clear. Over the years I've learned to ignore jargon, and I don't get in a spin over grammar or spelling. So long as the message is clear and polite I judge it's doing a job, no matter how inelegant. If people want to talk in cliches that's their embarrassment, though I sometimes wonder if they do the same at home.

To finish this rambling post I thought I'd share an email I received (names changed but nothing else). It arrived some time back, and I've been trying to figure it out ever since - perhaps you can help.


Already one step ahead, and agree with your point. Nick has already done a useful initial investigation having spoken to a large proportion of the users, that report made a number of observations and I believe part of what Dave needs to get to grips with is this.

I believe however that part of the learnings will be what happens when we are a lot more robust with non-usage and withdraw the right to 'not alter your copy' if people squeal then they have an option if they don't then with really do have a problem with 'retailer apathy' !

However Dave primary focus must remain to put the retailer targeting and workings in place with a view to the new way of managing the unsold etc of Camberley, I have no doubt this must come first, then any investigation can follow. I believe these first goals can be achieved fairly quickly with Joe full time.

Suggestions on a postcard, please.


  1. I notice no reference to risk assessments or performance indicator demographics therefore I conclude that your data may be invalidated.

  2. My friend Clare Sturges is a writer and worked for AXA translating business jargon into plain English. Sometimes I think people hide ineptitude, blandness and low intelligence with this BS speak. I cannot bear 'moving forward' it really gets me more than some of the more colourful phrases for some reason!

  3. Ongoing analysis indicates a contextual lack, negatively impacting reader performance parameters.

  4. It looks like a patchwork of paragraphs copied and pasted from elsewhere. Nothing refers to anything else. It's a masterpiece of nonsense.

    Loved the way you signed your first mail, and the way the other guy missed it...!

  5. Hello Mark!

    I'm pleased to say that a lot of the management speak in the public sector seems that have disappeared over the last couple of years. As senior managers have taken early retirement etc, there's a new wave of staff coming through more used to writing in short, snappy sentences, probably helped by Twitter and other social media.

    If I hear anyone come out with bollocks like the above, I tell them to stick it up their Blue Sky a**e! And then laugh about them behind their back.

  6. Baffled with bullshit!
    It's the new lingo and we all have to learn to speak it.
    Moving forward.

  7. My personal bug bears are 'think outside the box' and 'blue sky thinking'. I absolutely hate those!! I have been known in the past to challenge management speak...by asking 'Yes, but what does that actually mean?'. The recipients of that question often get quite flustered :-)

    C x