Top Ten Corporate Buzzwords and Catchphrases
Scott Adams, in the “Dilbert” comic strips and books, pokes fun at office behavior most of us usually take for granted. Among the many things satirized in “Dilbert” was corporate jargon. Corporate lingo is often used in meetings, employee manuals, e-mails, and even daily conversation. Executives and the higher-ups in the corporation try to hide their real motives – and yes, even their ignorance – with words that sound good. Here are ten catchphrases that have caught on with executives and bosses:
“Six-Sigma” refers to a business management strategy innovated by Motorola, and is often used by many companies to identify and remove errors in a business process. Six-Sigma is a very sophisticated management system that has a lot to do with mathematics and statistics. Some executives say that they have had “extensive training” in Six-Sigma, although they end up hiring too many consultants, or “Black Belts,” who devise complicated solutions to simple problems (like rules on wallpaper and the use of the company dartboard). The Six-Sigma approach is also partly responsible for the acronyms and slogans your company probably uses in its advertisements.
“Reengineering” is also called “business process redesign.” While it’s a very catchy term applied by many companies, it’s a convenient excuse used by some to add more tasks to your workload. Michael Hammer and James Champy, the authors of “Reengineering the Corporation,” claim that most companies waste too much time delegating tasks between departments and employees. In a reengineered company, entire parts of the business process are delegated to a team of overworked employees.
Let’s face it, your boss has no idea what you actually do for the company. Some bosses, with the intent to prove themselves worth their hefty salaries and penthouse offices, pretend to know every part of the business process, down to the most menial job in the office. A “paradigm” is a buzzword that the boss uses to take cool-sounding part of your job and tries to convince you he knows what you do, but ends up blabbering nonsense. Take this as an example: “We can adopt a paradigm where systems downtime can be eradicated through optimized viral benchmarks. That fulfills our results-oriented thrust, which must apply to programming and overall operational excellence.”
“Synergy” can mean a lot of things in a corporation, to the point that everything in the company becomes “synergistic.” Synergy means a dynamic relationship that results in a greater and more far-reaching effect for the company, although it can also refer to morning exercise, birthday celebrations, corporate meetings, and the lunch line at the office pantry. Sometimes the word “synergy” does not have to mean anything at all, and can be used to enhance one’s sentences. Even the top brass at some companies use “synergy” to describe an employee who punches out after three straight hours of overtime; “What a synergistic employee!”
6. Thought Leadership
A “thought leader” gets praises from the boss for stating the obvious during a meeting or a conference. There was once a time that a thought leader proposes visionary, forward-thinking, and insightful thoughts. Great ideas are hard to come by, especially if the boss schedules a meeting just an hour after your lunch break. Most thought leaders are the bosses themselves, who demonstrate thought leadership by lifting ideas from business management books.
Many companies have an unhealthy obsession with “systems,” that they devise systems for systems that already exist in the first place. Chances are your company is full of systems that cover everything from server administration to human resources to toilet paper replacement. Companies “systematize” everything to the point that workers become bored and confused with the “system” they belong in. A good example of a system is the management information system (MIS), which is the file cabinet that holds employee records.
Companies have long since done away with the word “fired” for more appealing terms, like “downsizing” and “rightsizing.” Employees who receive the pink slip see right through these catchphrases, so corporations devised a new strategy to go along with a new term, “float.” Instead of letting an employee go, a company lets him or her stay for a while in the company until a new position opens in the company. While most companies think that a “float” decreases recruitment costs, productivity figures are lowered. Employee morale also dips because people think that the company is a sinking ship. (Read Seven ways to deal with getting fired)
3. Competitive Advantage
“Competitive advantage” refers to the profits and reputation a company enjoys compared with other companies in the same field. Competitive advantage sounds good, until executives start to use it to describe even the most mundane of things. As long as there’s something to compete about, from stock numbers to the perfect crease in a pair of suit pants, business executives will do everything to get a competitive advantage. The phrase is also a favorite ad lib for executives during regular meetings.
2. Best Practices
Something as simple as an employee manual can be rephrased into a more corporate-sounding one. A favorite corporate buzzword for any document that outlines proper office behavior is “best practices.” “Best practices” is one of the most overused corporate buzzwords. Like any buzzword, it can refer to almost anything from business techniques to politically-correct speech to dress code. Even bad ideas like a set frequency for bathroom breaks are often termed as “best practice.”
“Revolutionary” is the most overused buzzword in the corporate world today. There was a time that the word “revolution” would light a fire in the bellies of the passionate but oppressed masses. The mere mention of “revolution” would have them up in arms against their oppressors. Today, “revolutionary” describes every single thing a company does, even if there’s nothing unique or dramatic about them. There are “revolutionary” business processes copied from business books, ideas imitated from other companies, and even the “revolutionary” arrangement of cubicles. The word is often used by executives to “inspire” a group of bored employees during annual company speeches, who end up playing Buzzword Bingo.
Not all executives and bosses use buzzwords in the same way, and some may even know what exactly the word means and what it’s used for. As long as there are people who will keep on using buzzwords and annoying catchphrases at the office, corporate lingo is here to stay and annoy us all.
If this piece of article stimulates your interest in corporate world, might as well read how to climb the corporate ladder.