The Wonderful World of Corporate Speak

I received a voicemail from my manager that contained the following among its long-winded sentences (all of which essentially boiled down to ‘listen to the attached voicemail’): “I afforded her the opportunity to…[long pause for rephrasing] I solicited her commentary on [the project]… ”

What is so wrong with “I asked her to take a look at it” I simply cannot fathom. Would you say to your significant other “I would like to afford you the opportunity to accompany me on an excursion to the Hawaiian Island of Maui. May I solicit your thoughts on that?” or would you say “Hey, wanna go to Maui, Honey [or Sweetie, or Senator, as the case may be]?”  If your child asked “Can we go to Chuck E. Cheese for dinner?” would you reply “Share with me your reasoning process. What is it about Chuck E. Cheese that makes it appropriate for this evening’s repast?” If so, where do you live? Elsinore Castle? With the Gilmore Girls? (And any reasonable human being would simply say ‘No!’ in response to that question, however it was phrased.)

Moving from voicemail to email, my supervisor received an missive from his VP, who ‘circled’ with him to find out who on his team was attending a certain ‘lunch and learn’. My supervisor forwarded me the email with the following:

“Can you let me know your involvement in attending these sessions.”

Muddled as that message is, I believe what is being asked is: “Are you going to the lunch-and-learn?” Why can’t he just say that? We are talking about a lunch and learns, for God’s sake, not a summit about the future of NATO. It is also not clear to me how one can be involved in attending a meeting. I know you can be involved in a meeting, but can you be involved in attending a meeting? Are there permutations of attendance? Isn’t that like being a little bit pregnant? You are either attending the meeting or you aren’t.

I have come to believe that this predilection for couching everything in the corporate world in high-falutin’ language has three main causes:

  1.  People who do this believe it makes them sound intelligent, whereas it mostly makes them sound like tools and fools.
  2. It obscures what they say to such an extent that they can claim later you misunderstood (“No, when I said you should proceed expeditiously to reinvigorate the process, I didn’t mean you should actually do anything. At the end of the day, it’s all about your listening skills. Let’s touch base during our next coaching session to discuss revisiting your individual development plan and adding a module on communication.”)
  3. Political correctness. Couching everything in florid language reduces the possibility of saying the ‘wrong thing’. If you have to cast around for a twenty dollar word every few syllables, it forces you to recall all the ‘approved’ words, so you don’t say things like ‘girl’ (instead of ‘woman’) or black (instead of ‘African-American’) or ’employee’ (instead of ‘associate’ or ‘partner’ or ‘cast member’). It also forces you to look up at the ceiling as you ponder the corporate approved thesaurus in your cerebellum, thus reducing the possibility your eyes might stray below the neckline of the value ass to whom you are speaking.

Let me leave you with this golden nugget, an impossible to understand and even harder to implement 2014 corporate goal from my employer:

 “Influence and facilitate emerging enterprise landscape”

 We must be getting new bushes. I vote for pachysandra and rhododendrons.