Attack of the Cannibal Zombie Businessmen


You can imagine the scene…a small box with one way out.  A bright screen inundates your view ahead, while fluorescent lighting above casts a sickly glow across the landscape.  An all-too-familiar clickety-clack repeats incessantly.  Off in the distance, you can hear a ringing sound…repeated.  The sounds of remote machinery echo throughout the room.  And then you hear it…softly at first, but as the footsteps draw near, the volume increases until you clearly hear…   

“…right, so let me circle back with you on this.  I need to drill down into this report to see if it applies across the piece.  If so, I’ll rubber stamp it so that we can ramp up our efforts.  Let’s parking lot this discussion for now, and I’ll schedule some face time so that we can have our ducks in a row going forward.  Irregardless, we’ll need to deliver the goods on this one.”    

Ugh.    

Credit: Arjun Kartha, sxc.hu

 

You’ve been exposed to the cannibal zombie businessmen.  If you work in an office like that one over there ←, you’ve been there.  The sounds of an approaching white-collar executive…floating about the office…discussing plans on their Crackberry.  They prey on other white-collar workers…spreading their vocabulary virus far and wide…and devouring the phrases that are fed back to them.  They do this until the whole office is infected…and you hear all manner of unnecessary business-speak filtering over the tops of cubicles and flowing out of conference rooms. Can you tell I’m not a fan?       

I recall at some point in my university career, being told of the importance of being succinct.  After all, why say something with so many words that it becomes convoluted, when you can be simple and to the point, and be extremely effective?  The professors and teachers who ask for so-many-word essays and assignments are not only looking for your research skills, but they’d like to know that you have an expansive vocabulary and can express yourself well.  Once you move beyond a certain point in higher learning, that all comes to a screeching halt.  Things turn around once again and the request is made for quality, not quantity.  So then, why is it that we perform another 180° turn when we begin to work in an office environment?  Why do we feel the need to spew meaningless dribble that someone at some point in time felt was the new office-speak?  Why has the business community created new words to replace the perfectly good words that were already there?       

Don’t look at me!  I don’t know the answer…I had hoped you might!       

“Bull has become the language of business”       

           ~ Why Business People Speak Like Idiots – A Bullfighter’s Guide by Brian Fugure, Chelsea Hardaway, and Jon Warshansky      

I have not yet had the opportunity to read this book, but I’m certainly about to seek it out.  I want to understand why it is that anyone feels as though this is the right thing to do in an office environment.  Perhaps if I’m able to understand that, I’d be able to move past the only type of motion I make where I work…the nomotion…it’s when you switch jobs to do something that feels like more responsibility, but doesn’t come with any more money.  Sound familiar anyone?      

Do people speak this way to appear intelligent?  Worldly?  Business-savvy?  As far as I’m concerned…      

…business speak ≠ intelligence……business speak = pretentious…      

But hey…that’s just my opinion…      

I’ve done a lot of research online to try to decipher some of this corporate-speak.  So here is a list of my top ten phrases that might get you a kick to the head.      

10.  Statistical massage (aka massaging the data) – this gem of a phrase refers to hiding facts within statistics.  Since 98% of office workers believe 74% of statistics in reports 57% of the time, this is an important way that you can convince people you don’t know a thing about what you just prepared.  I’ve also heard massaging the data refer to the practice of making data more usable for your own needs – which I like better actually.  It doesn’t sound as devious.      

9.  With all due respect – if you hear this, you’re about to be disrespected.  So this is essentially just a superfluous statement.  I’m a bigger fan of this when this preface is followed by “sir” or “ma’am”.  Awesome.      

8.  Actionable – as Merriam-Webster defines it as “subject to or affording ground for an action or suit at law”.  In other words, it was a legal definition.  Business types – outside of the legal field – have taken this word and run with it to refer to any item on which an action can be taken.  I mean, I suppose it’s not a horrible use of the word, but it just sounds excessive to me.      

7.  Reach out – the act of contacting someone.  A little overdramatic, don’t you think?  “I’ll reach out to you some time next week about this issue.”  I mean really guy…can you not just say e-mail?  Phone?  Talk to you?  Yeah…thought so…      

6.  Across the piece – all this means is everyone working together…or something that affects an entire group/department/organization.  I don’t think it’s necessary to find out if it’s acceptable across the piece to have double cheese on the office pizza…maybe we’ll just see if everyone wants that, shall we?      

5.  Best practices – something considered to be the best way to do something.  This might be another one that makes sense to use, but it’s so overused that it’s starting to drive me a little insane.  Remember…I just finished reading American Psycho…probably not a good idea to push me over the edge…      

4.  Parking lot – this one kind of goes hand in hand with circle back – which I will express my love for shortly.  In other words, you want to parking lot an item because you don’t have time to discuss it now, but will circle back with someone later on it.  Annoying.  Didn’t we used to use the phrase “table an item”?  What’s with using the flat surfaces to postpone a conversation?      

3.  Going forward – this is one I’ve heard from literally the first day working in a business office, so it is quite near and dear to my heart.  It basically means looking ahead, but it actually unnecessary, as it only prefaces something that implies what will be happening in the future anyway.      

2.  Irregardless – it’s not a real word!  Stop using it!  You can’t replace regardless or irrespective with this falsified bastard of the English language…      

1.  Circle back – oh circle back.  You are the bane of my existence.  You mean that someone wants to talk about what we’ve just been talking about later.  You are a fancy and useless way of saying follow up.  I’m good with follow up.  Let’s stick with that one.      

Hey...I told you so... (Credit: Philippe Ramakers, sxc.hu)

 

 What are some terms of endearment that you hear day-to-day in the office?  Let it out…we’re here for you…      

Thanks to TheOfficeLife.com for their Business Jargon Dictionary…it was very useful in picking and choosing some of my nastiest business-speak pet peeves…

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17 thoughts on “Attack of the Cannibal Zombie Businessmen

  1. Hilarious! I totally agree with you. I think business people speak this way because they have absolutely no idea what else to say. I believe that listening is a lost art. That’s all I’m going to say because I want to be succinct.

  2. Here are a few work-related cliches that absolutely kill me: “let’s pinpoint the LOW-HANGING FRUIT first.” “Don’t you really think we should PUSH THE ENVELOPE on this one?” “MANAGE FROM THE GROUND UP if you really want to affect change.” “Here are my thoughts from a marketing PERSPECTIVE.”

    Yucky. Just…yucky.

    Thanks for this post–it made me laugh out loud. And thanks for stopping by 36×37 on Thursday. Happy blogging!

  3. I think I’m going to start saying “With all due respect” in front of everything I say from now on.

    I tagged you in the comment to my last post. Hope it doesn’t discourage you from commenting on my blog in the future. =)

    • Oh my gosh! I was concerned that there was something else about WordPress that I had to learn…I’m thinking “what the heck does tag me mean???”. But then I figured it out…right…tag, you’re it…okay. Phew! Yeah, no problem…I will continue and seek someone else to tag *looking directly at Ian*.

  4. Oh, wait. Yes it is I checked. Reading it reminded me of a song called For the Workforce, Drowning by a band called Thursday. It makes working in an office seem so miserable, but then again, all their songs are pretty miserable.

  5. Hilarious! I love a good rant! I have the same peeve about irregardless – HONESTLY PEOPLE – look it up before you brandish it about making yourself look like a moron.

    Also – I don’t know if you followed the recent Aussie election at all, but the woman who is now the Prime Minister said “going forward” so many times in her election campaign that the media started making ruthless fun of her… It even resulted in this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0_avwKo4S0. For the remainder of the election campaign, we didn’t hear the phrase once!

    I’d also like to add the following:
    “…deeply embed a robust culture of…”

    • I did not actually follow that election, but that’s really funny. I was noticing watching NFL games last night that the one commentator kept saying going/moving forward interchangeably and it drove me nuts. But you see how fast the infection is spreading! Thanks for sharing that video!

  6. My uncle and I once had a conversation about “irregardless” wherein I told him it is NOT a word and he held that is was until I looked it up and had to give it to him under the prescriptive grammar theory (I think–the one where grammarians say we curmudgeons must accept that language changes) and the idea in linguistics where words become words as common usage demands they must (like Xerox being synonymous with copy now)–at any rate, it was a bitter concession and, in my opinion, a Pyrrhic victory.
    And I just heard the term “circling back” the other day–it was pretty weird.

    • I suppose so, but that doesn’t make it right! Admittedly, there are many words that come from that kind of an origin…but are they deserving of it? Xerox? Yes… Band-Aid? Yes… Kleenex? Yes… Irregardless? Certainly not! But if they get irregardless, then I’m keeping “sup”.

  7. “Reach out-The act of contacting someone. A little dramatic…”
    I love this! Reminds me of Office Space and TPS reports. I once worked in a mail room for a mid-size company and they were insane I learned as I walked around hourly delivering mail across the various departments. Funny. Let me know if you ever figure out this zombie world.

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