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Leadership, Viewpoint!

Getting to the root of business jargon – tips to stop the bull****

Bullshit wordcloudA recent Harvard blog article If We All Hate Business Jargon, Why Do We Keep Using It? discusses the perennial problem of managers using meaningless jargon (talking bullshit) and identifies a number of tips for dealing with the issue.

I’ve written previously about the rise of Fake Leadership and the tendency of these managers to use empty platitudes (with phrases filled with ‘stakeholders’, ‘ongoing’, ‘going forward’ and ‘reach out’, to name just 4 examples) and to rely on “business-speak” to create an aura of authority.

The Harvard article says that, historically, there are 3 main ways people have tried to deal with bullshit:

  • Laugh at it
  • Use it for your own advantage
  • Try to ban it

None of these address the root causes and the article suggests further ways that might be more effective at countering this nonsense.

  • Make sure people’s jobs are meaningful and make a real difference (reduce the need for them to fill their time justifying a non-job)
  • Slow down the spread of jargon by asking good questions:
    • “What is the evidence for this?”
    • “How will this work?”
    • “What does that mean?”
  • Enforce a rule that, if you propose an idea, you have to take charge of implementing it
  • Kill of older ideas/initiatives that have gone nowhere, before adding new ones

We do, of course, have to differentiate between meaningless management-speak and the technical terms that people need to be able to do their job. While some might see this as “jargon”, it is often necessary and appropriate for specialists and professionals to use this language. Otherwise, we need to root out the fake leaders (and stupid ones) and start communicating clearly and effectively.

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