The curse of b-speak

Last week a colleague submitted a short paper to me with the headers “where we are”, “where we are going”, and “what we can do”. My congratulations on avoiding more formalised “b-speak” headers was shortlived when he pointed out that he had lifted them from my edit of the last paper he wrote, where I had changed the headers to those I was now praising him for using.

A strange thing happens when we pass through the glass revolving doors of the office – real or metaphorical. We suddenly start talking and behaving differently. Despite being in the company of other people, interacting as people do both face to face and in written form, we start talking and writing in a manner we believe is appropriate to “being at work”.

This is no more pronounced than in programmes like The Apprentice, which feature people who have grown old before they have grown up.

I am not talking about the many clichés that have plagued our everyday business life, because they have infected our personal lives too. This is more about our readiness when wearing “the suit” to use words and phrases that we would never consider using with our family and friends. Words like….. 

Objectives Shareholder value Holistic
Synergy Appraisal Value proposition
Subject matter expert Net present value Stakeholders
Consultation Risk assessment Contingency planning
Heads up Bandwidth Deliverables
Leverage Paradigm shift Core competency
Benchmarking Pipeline Strategic

Why do we use them? Is it a desire to fit in? is it because we think that being “at work” requires a different vocabulary, and that when we hang up “the suit” at the end of the day we can also put down our b-speak dictionary?

So what can we actually do about it? We can stop using these terms. We can talk and write simply. It is a challenge. Take the list above, add your own pet hates to it, and then challenge yourself the next time you write a report or formal e-mail to find alternative words you may use at home.

After all, we can attain an optimised paradigm if we leverage the requisite thought leadership to facilitate a holistic approach. Or something.

2 thoughts on “The curse of b-speak

  1. Love this. I refuse to use jargon where possible. Plain English trumps every time. This is why on my blog I will not succumb to jargon if I can help it. Agree +1… or should that just be… Agree.

  2. Excellent post – very well put. George Orwell would be pleased.

    I remember when my youngest child started nursery at four years old, and the nursery manager explained that their “objective was to create a holistic scaffolding for his learning experience”…

    Although I must admit to a secret fondness for ‘heads-up’.

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