Business Jargon, Slang, Metaphors– People Talk Weird in Business: Often Annoying, Pretentious, Useless, Gobbledygook…

Business jargon: People talk weird in the business world. Everyone keeps using silly words and phrases, like– ‘elephant in the room’, ‘soup to nuts’, ‘leverage’, ‘ballpark’… People talk this way because they think it describes perfectly what they mean… or, they don’t know any other way to describe it (and, possibly they are not sure what it really means), or they think it makes them sound smarter (but, they probably don’t know what it really means)…

Business jargon, to say the least, can be quite confusing, even for the most fluent person… According to Alan Stevens; business jargon is tribal and reinforces belonging… It’s part of the psyche, but it’s not useful… The uses for a business metaphor are almost endless in the course of a business and its normal operations… Companies use metaphors to draw pictures in people’s minds and compare a complex or difficult-to-understand business concept or operation into an easily relatable belief or situation…

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According to Jonathan Guthrie; jargon is the epic poetry of modern business. It can turn a bunch of windbags in a meeting room into a ‘quick wins task-force’… According to some experts, business jargon masks the real meaning of an idea, issue, challenge… people use it as a substitute for thinking clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others… According to Richard Nordquis; the next time you feel need to; ‘ reach out’, ‘touch base’, ‘shift paradigm’, ‘leverage a best practice’ or ‘join a tiger team’… by all means do it: Just don’t say you’re doing it… If you have to ask why, chances are you’ve fallen under the poisonous spell of business jargon…

In the  article The Good, The Bad, and the Buzzy by Inc. staff writes:  Business jargon is a language unto itself and, over the years, some good– and not so good– buzzwords are part of the standard lexicon. Check out this list and find out if jargon like ‘authenticity’ and ‘core competency’ are here to stay, or if we’d rather not hear them used again:

  • Business Buzzwords We Don’t Want to Hear: ‘Actionable’: A high-energy noun gone passive and flabby. ‘Authenticity’: Has become its own antonym through overuse. Best of breed’: Try not thinking of springer spaniels. ‘Brain dump’: Why treat creativity like waste? ‘Co-opetition’: You don’t need a frenemy (i.e., friend and enemy). ‘Disintermediate’: Has the same number of syllables as ‘cut out the middleman’ with none of the clarity. ‘Incentivize’: First, it’s not a word. Second, what’s wrong with motivate? ‘Mindshare’: Our psyches are not Florida condos. ‘Offline’: Annoying in meetings (‘Let’s take this offline’). We’re already offline! We’re surrounded by human beings! ‘Outside the box’: A cliché about not thinking in clichés. ‘Proactive’: Ugly corporate-ese, but without a decent synonym. Anyone? ‘Repurpose’: You are recycling. Just say so. ‘Solution’: A shame, what has happened to this word. ‘Synergy’: This bastard child of synthesis and energy is godfather to every enigmatically named tech company. ‘Value-add’: Devalues the concept of value. Talk shouldn’t be quite this cheap…
  • Business Buzzwords We Like: ‘Angel’: What better metaphor for the answer to an entrepreneur’s prayers? ‘Bandwidth’: The rare tech term that translates to human beings. ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’: Humor makes the phrase memorable; hyperbole makes it motivational. ‘Core competency’: Ruthlessly focuses the leader’s mind. ‘Cube farm’: Truthful but whimsical. ‘Elevator pitch’: A business drama in miniature. ‘Empower’: A little treacly, but also clear and authoritative. ‘Frictionless’: Great image for how processes should work. ‘Just in time’: Suggests not just efficiency but salvation. ‘Killer app’: Succinct, clear, intimidating. ‘Knowledge worker’: Judges employees not by the color of their collars but by the content of their brains. ‘Learning organization’: Celebrates both continuous improvement and humility. ‘Management by walking around’: Humble yet vivid. ‘Push the envelope’: A cliché we like. Must be the ‘right stuff’ association. ‘Stickiness’: Perfectly describes content that compels users to return…

In the article Trying to Shove a Square Peg in A Round Hole by Eden Sunshine writes: Sometimes it just doesn’t fit, e.g.: Sometimes an employee just doesn’t fit, it happens. Occasionally you hire the wrong person. It could stem from several things. It might be a result of not knowing ‘right type’ of person you are looking for in the business. You know what I mean by ‘right type’; someone who fits the culture and personality for the business. It could also be from a faulty hiring process itself… Either way you ended up with wrong person; despite all the efforts to mentor and guide that person to fit the culture of the business. Sometimes they just don’t fit: Let’s stop trying to shove a ’round peg in a square hole’

Sometimes customers just don’t fit… they can be wrong customers. Hard to imagine but it happens too. This condition could stem from a variety of reasons; it could be the marketing message… Sometimes it’s the conversion process (let’s face it, occasionally a sales person over promises).  Sometimes a business try to get some customers to conform to the way the company does business…

In other words, trying to get customers to do it the company way versus look at the nature and needs of the customer, and deliver a service or product congruent with how they want it… But the fact is, often you try to shove the customer in a ‘square hole’ when perhaps you need to look more carefully at your services and be willing to become a ’round hole’ instead…

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In the article Why Being A Square Peg is Your Greatest Asset by Cory Huff writes: Do you sometimes feel like, ‘square peg in a round hole’? Do you feel like a ‘square peg’, fighting a never-ending battle against the systems that strain to hammer and bash you kicking into that ’round hole’? Well the good news is that the creative force that has always driven you to take the road less traveled, or the road strewn with potholes and cowpats as it seems sometimes is a ‘powerful force’ that can help you blossom and be successfully… Here’s the great news: ‘Square pegs’ make excellent creative people! The creative personality traits that you were told were bad, difficult or unrealistic, in the past, are the exact same ones that make you brilliant…

How cracking is that? So, at school or work if you ever got into hot water for: Daydreaming and letting your mind wander. Questioning authority. Not accepting things the way they are and questioning the status quo. Just being a little bit different. Having a burning and driving need to create what other people just don’t seem to have… So believe it; creative people are ‘square pegs’… Creativity is one of the most important ingredients for business success and ‘square peg’ people have it in bucket loads…

In the article Square Pegs, Round Holes by Gordon Tredgold writes: As leaders, one of the things you are often asked to do, is to find a way to get a ‘square peg into a round hole’… While not impossible, it’s usually not good for either ‘pegs’ or ‘holes’, since it requires some degree of force to bring them together, which can damage one or the other, often both… When faced with this type of challenges you must understand what is more important; ‘peg’ or ‘hole’… Which ever the case, when you are trying to bring the two together– you must first think smarter, and not just work harder to force the fit…

Use care when speaking business jargon: Don’t go overboard! Business jargon is overused, and it’s used (and misused) to try to impress others, especially when people don’t fully understand the situation… So, it’s best to: 1.) understand the jargon commonly used around you, 2.) learn to use business and Internet jargon words and phrases properly, but 3.) don’t overuse jargon, it can turn people off…  It can be embarrassing if people use jargon they don’t understand… 

Research from New York University and University of Basel in Switzerland showed that when you want people to trust you, then you must use plain language — not a bunch of business buzz words… The research found that most people are more inclined to think that statements are more truthful when they are written or spoken using ‘real’ language, rather than abstract phrases…  So if want to make sure you are connecting with your customers, throw out the jargon and get down to basic clear language…

According to Susan Wilson Solovic; I think most of us use certain buzz phrases on occasion, but if you want to improve customer relationships or to improve sales efforts, start paying attention to the language you use, and decide what jargon is counter productive… So before you make your next presentation, or write a proposal, or add content to your website; stop and remember the impact of your word choices! Business needs clarity in  communications and it must be perceived as being trustworthy– just keep your language simple and clear… According to Steve Tobak; if I had to write one wildly popular business article,  just one, it would have to be about the horrors of business jargon.

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But, for some reason, it makes people crazy. But here’s the thing, phrases like ‘paradigm shift’, ‘outside the box’… are overused and abused to the point where if you utter them today you’ll likely get lynched by coworkers. Nevertheless, labeling business jargon as ‘annoying, pretentious and useless’ — simply because they are effective is something that I find, well; ‘annoying, pretentious and useless’. Some experts say;  business jargon masks the real meaning of an issue… Sure, some people abuse jargon, but most people use it because it means exactly what they want to say…