The importance of corporate buzzwords (and why they’ll never go away)
Everyone loves to bitch about how awful business jargon is. We all started to loathe the word ‘pivot’ about 5 minutes after the pandemic broke out. In fact, some phrases have become so hated that no one dares utter them in a meeting (gems like ‘blue-sky thinking’ and ‘synergy’ spring to mind).
But why do we even use these nonsense words at all? Surely, the English language has given us plenty of choice when it comes to professional communication that we don’t need to rely on this weak-ass corporate drivel?
To quote the beautiful genius of Kevin from The Office, ‘Why waste time saying lot words, when few words do trick?’
Because the truth is, we need corporate speak.
Why? Well, most of the time, it’s because we hide behind it - it makes whatever work we’re doing seem monumentally more important than it is.
For example, this:
“I’m putting people’s contact details in our database so we can add them to our newsletter list.”
Sounds much less impressive than:
‘I’m optimizing our CRM to hyper-target our marketing communications and maximize conversion rates.’
And sure, it’s all bullshit. No one would argue with that fact. But if everyone hates these overinflated, meaningless phrases so much, why do we continue day in and day out to communicate like this in our professional life?
The ever-on-point Silicon Valley had a great bit about how jargon is painfully overused in the tech space:
One of the things I find fascinating about buzzwords is that they are in and of themselves a language; professional speech that somehow office workers universally both understand and use (even if they do so begrudgingly).
Surely, if we wanted to, we could just stop talking like this? We could simply stop saying ‘touching base’ and reply with ‘getting in touch’? We could stop talking about things being ‘impactful’ and use ‘effective’ instead? We could replace ‘scalability’ with ‘growth’? We could say ‘in the future’ instead of ‘going forward’.
We could do all of those things. So, why don’t we?
One of the main reasons is that corporate jargon, as a language, is inherently tied to office culture. The way we dress, behave and speak are office customs that we collectively participate in (again, perhaps begrudgingly).
Many of us complain about office attire but still dress the part (though who knows what post-COVID office fashion will look like). We try to avoid getting day drunk, swearing profusely in client meetings and cooking fish in the office microwave (and if you don’t, have a good long look at yourself in the mirror).
We agree to these unspoken rules because they are part of a cultural workplace contract. And the language we use is another part of that agreement.
Imagine for a moment that you completely stopped using any sort of business jargon in your professional communications. How would that look? Would you be minimizing your work by making it sound too easy or unimportant? Would your coworkers and superiors be put off by how direct and blunt you were in your approach? Would you alienate yourself by being that guy or girl who just doesn’t speak the same language as everyone else?
In many ways, business-speak is a cultural marker. It shows that you fit in, know the lingo, and understand how to use it. At its base level, it’s simply a marketing device. It demonstrates that you belong and are a vital piece of the corporate fabric.
And for that reason, we will never get rid of corporate speak. It will evolve and change over time, but we will always have a way of speaking that is specific to our work life, our profession and our unique office culture.
And it will probably always be irritating as hell.
But if you’re brave enough, you could totally just start disrupting the status quo and thinking outside the box.
If you want jargon-free content for your business, hit me up!