‘Blue sky thinking’, ‘level playing field’, ‘idea showers’, ‘touching base’ – is there a day goes by when you don’t hear some annoying piece of business jargon fall from the lips of a work colleague? While we all profess to finding it irritating, most of us are guilty of falling into this pattern of workplace speech at some point.
For some, business jargon has become second nature: walk through the office door and this verbal shorthand replaces the regular speech we use outside the corporate world. You could argue that there are some benefits to it; for example, it is a fast way to convey ideas, which in turn means you are freed up to get through your to-do list that bit quicker. It could also be said that we are building a sense of shared identity within a company by all falling into the same speech patterns – a sense of belonging and cohesion within a team.
Look at it from another angle, however, and business jargon becomes just another way in which workers switch off and go through the day on auto-pilot. By reaching for a quick cliché, you halt the thought process behind it, conveying an idea in a neat little turn of phrase and then forgetting about the idea itself.
Like many aspects of life in the business world, jargon reduces interactions to an over-simplified tick-box exercise – ‘follow these procedures/rules/plans/timetables and everything will be fine’. Business jargon makes us all that little bit less autonomous and that little bit more stupid by stifling creativity, reducing a worker’s desire or ability to come up with a ‘big idea’ that could benefit their employer.
In an environment where everyone’s performance is measured and compared, conformity is seen as major positive. In order not to stand out and to feel safe, included and accepted within a group, we slip blindly into the herd mentality that makes business jargon so widespread. It feels like joining an exclusive group, albeit a very large one, and sharing a code; however, it also reveals a climate of fear in the modern office.
There are sinister Orwellian undertones to this type of ‘Groupthink’ and ‘Groupspeak’, making office jargon a sign of dysfunction. It is not simply that business jargon is a lazy way of speaking but also that it reveals a lack of genuine, independent thought. Creativity is smothered as speakers become corporate drones, or puppets reading from a set script. They dress for the roles and speak the lines assigned to them; meanwhile, the more vulnerable they feel, the more exposed they believe they are and the closer they cling to their script.
While it is always nice to feel included and to win approval, the prevalence of business jargon only shows just how insecure we think we are in the modern workplace. By falling into this shorthand, we by-pass thought processes and take a quick fix over a creative approach. This is making us all, collectively, that little more stupid.
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