Sunday, July 3, 2016

stop making sense

Você tem alguma idéia do que eu estou dizendo?

I entered the corporate world in the middle 90s when I took a job designing and composing newsletters for a large legal publisher. My background in newspaper composition coupled with my newly-gained experience in Pagemaker 4.0 made me a natural for the position. Prior to this job, I had worked in small businesses of not more than 10 or 15 employees. 

Within a few years, I grew bored and decided to move on. I became the art director for a Philadelphia-based chain of floor-covering stores. Here, I designed daily ads and weekly circulars. I knew nothing about carpet and yet, I managed to produce successful advertising during the three years of my employ. It was also during my tenure there that I was first exposed to the inane corporate jargon that is so prevalent in conference rooms and offices today. My boss — a shrewd, deceptive and despicable businessman — would regularly spew buzzwords at meetings. His favorite was "smartbombs." While discussing which lines of carpeting should be featured on the front of a four-page newspaper insert, he'd veer off course and say "We need to drop some smartbombs. That's what customers respond to — smartbombs!" I worked for him fifteen years ago and I still have no idea what a fucking smartbomb is.

Once again, I grew bored with my job and sought employment elsewhere. This time, I ended up in the marketing department of a national after-market auto parts supplier. Here's where the real corporate bullshit was. Advertising meetings were packed to standing-room. Executive Vice-Presidents in charge of who-knows-what would erupt in phrases like "low-hanging fruit" and "vertical thinking" and "tuna and bananas." Tuna and bananas? I thought we sold auto parts.

At my current employer (a job I have had for nearly ten years, and after this blog post, I hope to still have), every day is a new lesson in the business world lexicon. I have scratched my head trying to figure out what some of my co-workers are saying. It sounds like English. I have heard those words before, just not in that order or in that context. When I started out in the field of graphic design, I used to make these things called "brochures." Now, they have become "deliverables." People "used" things. Now, they "utilize" them, Co-workers would "call" each other. Now, they "reach out" to one another. We no longer "talk about it later." Now, we must "take it offline." Unless, of course, you are "off reservation," though I honestly don't know what that one means. Not content with the already-confusing clichés, someone decided to start mixing them up, like a big, interchangeable, corporate Mad-Libs. I once had someone tell me that a specific task was "in my wagon wheel." Later that same day, in a meeting, someone said "let's get our cats in a row" followed two sentences later by "that's like herding ducks." I wanted to stand up and interrupt the proceedings by asking, "What the actual fuck are you talking about?" I often wonder if they spoke this way only when dressed in freshly-pressed Dockers and a button-down Oxford. 

I believe that the proliferation of this overly flowery, often nonsensical code-language attempts — over anything else — to make the user sound more intelligent. Often, these words are being used incorrectly (as is the mistaken synonymy of "use" and "utilize"), along with incorrect grammar ("me and him" or "contact Joe and I") for added effect. In reality, "corporate-speak" only serves to make the user look the opposite of intelligent. There's a word for that, but it eludes me at the moment.

You wanna come off as "intelligent" to your superiors and subordinates alike? Concentrate more on the substance of your ideas and less on how you talk about them.

Also, you could try using the word "proliferation" more, 'cause that's a cool word.

(That illustration at the top of this post entry is called a "word cloud." Another "buzzword." It makes for a great design, but it's total bullshit.)

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