Many mysteries of corporate lingo, and my zero cycles

  • Aarish Chhabra, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Nov 09, 2014 18:35 IST

“Do we have the bandwidth to accommodate the bearish concerns of most verticals and still be bullish about our prospects to make an aggressive quote?”

Hanji? What? What did you say?

“We must do a competitive analysis, assess our cash-burn rate, ensure cash-flow benefits. If required to increase bandwidth, we may even have to backfill. So, rather than jettisoning resources, we must leverage our synergies.”
What do you mean? Just say it!

“Get this! It’s time to sit down and talk about vertical integration. I will take it to a thought shower and circle back. We may need a paradigm shift.”

OK. Kill me.
Put my frustrations aside, am I the only one who hears Sanskrit in such conversations? It could well be Farsi or even Mandarin. However, as I’ve come to realise finally, this gibberish-meets-sophistication version of English is the default language of the modern corporate world. It pervades company boardrooms, conference halls, ‘touch-base’ meetings and conventions, and even training sessions held to make things easier for lowly journalists.

Please understand my peeve, and pardon me for making it extra personal this week. Actually, over the past 10 days, I’ve been in two workshops where they could well have told me that I was the most useless employee of the company; and I would’ve smiled through it, not understanding a word. Maybe they did say that. But I didn’t get it. So far, I’ve retained my confused peace of mind and my job.

I am worried, though. Everything — from my official email to desk papers to those sticky notes about stories, even the water-cooler banter, the gossip about bosses, and harmless bitching about friends — is now filled with this anger-inducing, soul-crushing, mind-numbing, tongue-tiring, frustratingly confusing lingo. The rate at which it’s making inroads into our day-to-day vocabulary is alarming.

To take a cue from it, let me admit that I have zero cycles for it. Zero cycles? Yes, that’s a fancy way of saying that I don’t have the capacity to learn this biz-speak. And now that I’ve shown no leanings towards ‘newer learnings’ or ‘upskill’, I could be labelled a ‘non-proactive resource’ and shifted to another ‘vertical’? That, when I am not even sure what this thing called ‘vertical’ means exactly.

I did try to learn, and stumbled upon Steven Poole’s book, ‘Who Touched Base in My Thought Shower?: A Treasury of Unbearable Office Jargon’.
He writes:
“Oh, right, the verticals. Yep, we need to leverage the learnings across all the verticals. I’m totally on board with that. Oh, we need to talk about content strategy in a difficult vertical? Sure, good idea! … What the hell are verticals again?
Vertical in ordinary office use can almost always be replaced with ‘market’
[or, in my view, ‘department’], which has the advantage of being a word that everyone understands, and the concomitant disadvantage (for the machiavellian jargon-wielder) that it won’t serve to browbeat and intimidate workers.
Oh, you know what else is vertical right now? My middle finger.”

That was rude, but understandable.

Anyway, let me just circle back to the two situations I faced recently. (Sorry, sticking to the point is not one of my ‘core competencies’.) One was a workshop on leadership, by a trainer who earlier trained us in office temperament. I admire him for trying. The other was a workshop on newer ways of working in the newsroom.

From these, I got one ‘major takeaway’. It was simply awesome how anyone could use words like ‘actionable’, ‘c-level’, ‘buy-in’, ‘enabler’, ‘close the loop’, ‘thought shower’, ‘end-to-end’, ‘traction’ and ‘monetise’ in a paragraph about newspapers needing to do better stories. Another paragraph was about how to have patience. Believe me, with my eyes wide open, the vocabulary and phrasing of the paragraph gave a lesson in patience.

In my humble opinion, this lingo is counter-productive. What’s the point of making a point if I’ve missed your point altogether? Get my point? But fighting this malaise is not that simple.

We, the victims of this jargon, need to get together and start a movement. To take it to the next level, we must leverage the energies of fellow resources and operationalise a synergised POA to gain enough traction to realign the resource-management trajectory of our companies.

Got my point? Don’t worry, neither did I. That’s not important. It just needs to sound fancy.

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