Learn the Lingo

You know what really grinds my gears? Meaningless expressions. In keeping with last week’s theme of “shit I don’t miss about the corporate world,” let’s talk about one of the most eye-rollingly, head-bashingly irritating aspects of Corporatelandia: business jargon. Businesspeople in general, and, from my limited two years’ experience, salespeople especially, speak their own language, and it’s a really fucking stupid language. I think, since they’re constantly selling something – whether themselves, their business, or their product – business types have learned that one way to shut out competition is to just never stop talking. Thus, they’ve developed all these weird, roundabout ways of saying things that make everything unnecessarily complicated; simple, one-word concepts often become clumsy, passive-voiced expressions, and meaningless idioms are tacked on to sentences for no discernable reason other than to maximize talking time. I honestly think business(people, but let’s be honest, mostly men) are literally just fighting to be the person with the most words coming out of his mouth.

So, let’s take a look at some of the most infuriating turns of phrase that have come out of this linguistic phenomenon. These are ranked by how much they make me want to punch things, or just the order in which I remembered them:

At the end of the day: This was once an innocuous little expression that I learned to loathe after hearing it, no exaggeration, seven times in one two minute span of time. Unless you’re saying “at the end of the day I’m going to take off my Corporate Pants and cry in the fetal position” this phrase is terrible.

From ____ perspective: Again, this one is just a way to squeeze more words into your sentence. I could say, “From my perspective you’re full of shit,” but why would I say that when “you’re full of shit” is so much more succinct?

Reach out: Please, just say contact, email, or call.

Touch: Similar to reaching out, but so much creepier. I remember listening to sales managers tell their teams that they should be “touching” their prospects several times a week and wondering, A) how they could say that with a straight face; and B) what the fuck are they teaching these people in sales training?

Dialogue: You mean talk? Yes, you mean talk.

Synergy: I honestly don’t even know what this means. Is it science? I’m pretty sure half the people who say synergy don’t know what synergy means.

Push back: When someone says no, and you won’t accept it. “They’re pushing back, but I think we can convince them.” A favorite of businesses and sexual harassers everywhere!

Brain dump / Data dump: Let’s just keep dumps out of the office, ok?

Circle back / Table a discussion / Put on the backburner: Why can’t you just say you’ll talk about it later? Why??? (Also, putting things on the backburner always bothered me in particular because there are frequently documents involved, and in my head I’m always like, “No, don’t put paper on any burners!!!” because I have no moron-thought filter.)

110%: Always a classic, and always mathematically impossible. Sales managers love to say this almost as much as tee-ball coaches.

Price point: Just say price, you jackass.

Gatekeeper: Ok, this one might have some linguistic merit (although honestly, you probably mean the receptionist; just say receptionist) but it always makes me think of, like, an old medieval man asking riddles at the castle gate or something, and I can’t take it seriously.

Limited bandwidth: I remember being in a meeting once where the topic of discussion was something along the lines of “we have too much shit to do,” and someone wrote that down as “limited bandwidth.” I almost butted in to assure them that, no, our network speed was fine, until I realized he meant that as an expression for our limited capacity to do things. Listen, for one thing, you can’t just usurp technological terms with concrete meanings and assign them other meanings; second, referring to your employees’ frustrations over workload as an IT problem is really dehumanizing and probably not the best way to inspire productivity.

Deep dive an issue: No thanks, but we can discuss it in depth if you’d like.

Corporate values: This is meaningless. Corporations can’t have values; they are not thinking, feeling entities. People can have values. Corporations are not people, despite what some members of our government insist.

Honorable mention: I have never heard either of these uttered in real life, but I did a quick Google search for annoying business jargon just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything especially rage-inducing and these two gems came into my life to piss me off for years to come.

Dehire: Seriously? Why the fuck wouldn’t you just say fire?

And, the most ridiculous sentence I’ve ever read –

Can I stir fry an idea in your think-wok?: Is this a joke? Please tell me no human has ever said this. I can’t believe one person said it, let alone enough people for it to be included on a list. Anyone who says this needs to be dehired immediately.

Learn the Lingo

Business Casual

Look, no one likes wearing pants, right? Especially the kind of HR-approved, Corporate Pants that never quite fit right, that always sit in a weird place on your waist or give your body lumps where you don’t actually have lumps, so then you have to mask those lumps with equally awkward-fitting HR-approved blouses? Or maybe, just maybe, you finally find a pair of Corporate Pants that fit like a dream, but the material makes a funny sound when you walk like the time George Costanza bought that suit? Is this just me? I seem to see plenty of other people who at least appear perfectly comfortable in their Corporate Pants, so maybe I was the only one dealing with the Daily Pants Struggle, but I’m more inclined to believe that, with the exception of a select few people – Banana Republic models and the children of CEOs, those kids who slip right from Mom’s womb into a pair of Baby Corporate Pants – we are all secretly and silently fighting our own Battle of the Pants, and it will take a deep reserve of collective strength and bravery for each of us to stand up and say, “ENOUGH. I am tired of slacks that have a zipper, a button, AND that little metal-latch-thing. I have to pee too many times a day to deal with that shit. I mean, honestly, Banana Republic, was the classic zipper-button combo not enough? Is this a chastity belt? Why do my pants need such a complicated entry and exit process?” Or, you know, you can put it in your own words. The point is we all need to rise up against the Era of the Oppressive Pants.

Enter the Funemployment Dress Code: I have essentially worn nothing but running clothes for five weeks. I think I can honestly count on one hand the number of times since I left work that I’ve put on a real bra (hey, sports bras are more supportive, and underboob sweat is a very real and very terrible thing. My choices are valid.). I didn’t get to this point intentionally; in my first few days of joblessness I was just enjoying my freedom, running a lot, and spending a lot of time doing my own particular version of yoga, which involves a few sets of planks in thirty second to one minute increments followed by twenty minutes of sitting on the floor arguing with the dog.

I had every intention of starting the second week of unemployment right – I was going to get up, shower, and get dressed in real clothes like a damn adult, and sit down to Do Something Productive. But then we were hit with the kind of heat so oppressive that I couldn’t stop sweating even when sitting still in a dark and air-conditioned room; the kind of heat that made even Murray, a dog who lives for walkies, reluctant to go more than a block, constantly looking up at me with a face that so clearly said, “what the fuck, lady?” The kind of weather that causes local public radio reporters, people supposedly paid to say not-idiotic things, to actually utter the sentence, “looks like we’ll have a cooler day tomorrow with highs around 97.” So obviously real clothes were out of the question, because in hot weather if it’s not made of synthetic materials with sweat-wicking technology I want nothing to do with it.

So now I’ve become one of those people: the people in workout clothes all the time. In my defense (here’s the part where I get all judgy of other people so I can feel superior), I do not combine my perfectly coordinated running outfits with a face of full makeup and an immaculately coiffed and straightened ponytail like the girls you always see at the grocery store who are most certainly not on their way to or from a workout (seriously though, do you think maybe they’re actually grocery store employees? Like, does every grocery store just have a fleet of Yoga Pants Women who get paid to take up space in the yogurt aisle? Some of us need to eat yogurt for its digestive properties, thankyouverymuch); but I can’t say I’m any better, because I wear running clothes even when running is not on my agenda.

The thing is, though, I’ve been conditioned to conflate dress with productivity, as if somehow putting on bottoms that do not include a drawstring or a top with buttons automatically means I’ve accomplished more with my day. And that’s obviously bullshit. Somehow, possibly due to a sudden uptick in physical comfort and freedom of movement, I have managed to be productive despite the insurmountable obstacle of unprofessional clothing; I’ve been getting more things done that make me feel accomplished and good about myself in the past month than I ever did in a month at work in my Corporate Pants. And obviously what I’m wearing will not ultimately be the determining factor in whether I do something worthwhile with my time, but that’s kind of the point of this rambling pants rant: why are employers so concerned with what we wear at work? Why is the corporate world, especially, so obsessed with looking “professional” (as defined by wealthy white men*)? Professional should refer to the skill level with which you do the things that you do, not your outfit. I mean, that’s not to say businesses can’t or shouldn’t have general guidelines – maybe limit Office Bikini Day to once a month – but if you’re more concerned with what your employees have on their bodies than the work they’re putting out then your priorities are fucked up, and I think people will always be happier to work when they’re not spending half their paychecks on uncomfortable blazers. So, friends, let’s all rise up against the Corporate Pants. Make your voices heard! Insist upon your right to denim, that Holy Grail of the office worker! And then, when you all get fired, come join me in Funemployment.

*Obviously the fucked up and insidious whiteness of our mainstream interpretation of “professionalism” is a significantly larger and more important topic that deserves so much more than a parenthetical mention and a footnote, but it also deserves to be discussed by a better writer.

Business Casual

Dreams and Paranoia

I’m not counting this as a real post, because it’s 2:30 in the morning and I don’t have the presence of mind to draft anything decent, but it feels worth it to mention the dreams I’ve been having since I started taking the pain meds. These fucking dreams, man. I’ve never been a sound sleeper, and most of my dreams have always been of the “I remember something crazy happened, but it slipped away as soon as I woke up” variety; occasionally I might remember one clearly but the ones that stick tend to be the most mundane — I still have really distinct images of a dream I had in high school where I spent untold dream-hours just doing laundry. Like, SO MUCH laundry. That’s the kind of wacky nighttime adventure that sticks with me. This week, though, every time I wake up (from my multiple naps per day) my dreams have been resonating so impossibly vividly that they feel like memories of actual events. This morning I woke up in the middle of an argument with Larry David over a parking space. The other night the dog and I were having a full-on conversation; I desperately wish I had written down the script to that one. Earlier tonight I had a dream-argument with Cody, and it seemed so real that I woke up to keep fighting with him only to realize he wasn’t home at all. But just now I dreamed, so clearly, so distinctly, that the bedroom door creaked open and someone walked in, and, after confirming that Cody is still on his way home and not currently in the house I’m now sitting wide awake with the light on at nearly 3 in the morning and I’m freaking terrified. And I’m so, so tired.

Dreams and Paranoia

Pain Management

Woof. Y’all, it’s been a tough day. Admittedly I am also being a big whiny baby, but letting myself indulge in whiny baby-osity has provided more relief than any of these meds, so I’m not apologizing. Apparently it’s totally normal to feel more worse on the third or fourth day after surgery, which is a fun fact of which I had been unaware until very early this morning. After waking up to pain that felt like someone had been digging for lost items in my empty tooth sockets, I turned to Google to confirm, via totally reliable and indisputable anecdata, what I suspected – that I obviously had an untreatable infection which would cause my jaw to fall off any second. Once I came to terms with my imminent demise I spent the hours of 2-4:30 AM mindlessly trolling the internet and commenting on strangers’ blogs with reckless abandon (ok, I commented on two strangers’ blogs, but as someone who is not inclined to initiate human contact with strangers that felt pretty reckless). Eventually I gave up, took a second oxycodone, and fell into a half-sleep for a few hours; I woke up to a dog nose snorfling my face around 7:30.

Still in pain, grumpy as hell, and pretty delirious, I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t getting back to sleep, so I grabbed my phone to check my email – and with that little ding of new messages came a slap in the face from Bank of America and a stark reminder of one decidedly un-fun aspect of unemployment: my checking account was overdrawn. You guys, I fucking lost it. I mean, I know I’m not raking in a surplus of cash right now, but I was not expecting a negative number, and it hit hard. So, because I am an emotionally well-adjusted adult, I curled into the fetal position and sobbed for a while. Effective problem-solving!

Eventually I managed to pull myself together, but I’ve spent the rest of the day in pain and in a funk. I doubled the recommended dosage of my painkillers, which didn’t eliminate the pain but did leave me woozy and stumbling, so when I finally emerged into the daylight to walk Murray, blinking and disheveled, I’m sure I presented quite the image to all the stay-at-home parents and retirees cheerfully enjoying their coffee on their front porches. I successfully made a smoothie without losing a finger or causing a banana-explosion, and I managed two short, fretful naps. On a more productive note, I started my application for subsidized health insurance (thanks, Obama!) but I had to put that on pause because there were more steps than my feeble brain could handle today. After my “dinner” (a protein shake of dubious flavor), I treated myself to a beer, prescription warning labels be damned. I’m celebrating the little victories today. Here’s hoping tomorrow holds less pain, and maybe even solid foods.

Pain Management

Funemployment Tip #2: Have some major oral surgery!

Ok, obviously that’s not really a tip. Unless you actually need oral surgery, or you have some very questionable hobbies. I’ve been avoiding getting my wisdom teeth out for years because of a not-entirely-rational fear of oral surgery, but since I lose my dental coverage tomorrow and it’s not like I have to take off work to recover, this seemed like the time to do it.

The actual surgery part was a breeze, because I was asleep. The parts before and after were and have been miserable and I would really like for someone to knock me back out and just let me come to in five days or so. My arm is bruised and I look a like a junkie because it took three different nurses poking me with needles to find a vein for the IV; and I’ve learned that I am apparently immune to the nitrous oxide that was supposed to “take the edge off” while said vein-poking was occurring, as the edge was very much still on. The best part, and of course by “best” I mean the part that had me openly weeping in the surgeon’s waiting room, was when I went home and tried to change my blood-saturated gauze, and my jaw got stuck. Stuck. I absolutely could not close my mouth. The loopiness leftover from the general anesthesia combined with the fact that even on a normal day I don’t have much in the way of a feelings scale between Totally Fine and Everybody Fucking Panic meant I was ill-equipped to deal with this gracefully. We drove back to Dr. Surgeonface, who came to my rescue and managed to move my jaw back into place with minimal pain (probably due to lingering numbness) but now I have to wear a spectacularly unflattering face wrap as a “gentle reminder” not to open my jaw wider than I need for a sip of water. On the bright side, it has these little pockets on the side so I can ice my face while I wear it; once I recover, I might just wear it around and store snacks in there, like a squirrel. Squirrels have the snack game all figured out.

I have to add that I am immensely thankful to Cody – Boyfriend, Temporary Chauffeur, and Purchaser of Ice Cream (he’s having business cards printed up) and also to pain meds and Valium. I also want to give a shout out to my dog, Murray, who has dutifully sacrificed his normal daytime napping location of the couch to nap with me on the bed. He is so noble.

Featured image[Edited to add this super-fly shot of my squirrel headband, because fuck it, I have no shame.]

Funemployment Tip #2: Have some major oral surgery!

Funemployment Tip #1: Don’t panic / Start a blog, because you have a lot of free time and your mother always says you should.

It’s been almost a month since I quit my corporate cubicle job with nothing else lined up, with no plans or prospects. The initial jubilance and holy-shit-I’m-free feeling has mellowed in the past few weeks, and some of it has given way to holy-shit-what-about-money-how-do-I-feed-myself, but there is still no question that leaving was the best decision I could have made for myself (although I was JUST starting to master the Silent Desk Panic Attack and the Stealthy Office Bathroom Cry – important life skills!).

When I got the job I was 23, I had just moved to Raleigh and signed a lease with the Boyfriend, and I needed income. Through a staffing agency I got an interview for a position I almost immediately rejected – it had the word “sales” in the title. Shudder. I decided to go to the interview for practice, because surely I would not get hired on the very first attempt. Then they hired me. So I thought, well, I’ll do this for six months, a year at most, to build some skills and salary history, and in the mean time I would lay plans to shift into a job I was actually interested in. But six months, then a year, passed and I had no plans. I felt stuck and paralyzed by indecision and unhappiness. My mind was in a constant fog, and I couldn’t remember what I was even good at, let alone what I wanted to be doing, other than not this. I sought treatment for depression, but I was too anxious to find a therapist, and the prescription I was put on was all side effects and no effects. So for a long time I just existed. Occasionally I sent off a resume, and I even got one interview, but for the most part I lacked the energy to put forth much of an effort.

In sight of my two year mark with the company, I resolved to make my exit. I had enough savings to get by for a few months, and the Boyfriend and I had a temporary roommate set to move in for the summer to pay a third of the rent. I also had permission to quit from my mother, and yes I am a 25 year old adult woman, but sometimes big life decisions are easier when Mom says it’s ok, so shut up. I gave my two weeks’ notice on June 1, and they released me June 2.  Freeeeeeeeeeeedooooooooom. (In my mind that reads like “free doom” with is not what I was going for.)

I’ve spent the past month slowly emerging from my fog. It’s taken a while, and for the first few days at least the novelty of unlimited, consequence-free access to Netflix and day-drinking didn’t help with the quest for mental clarity, but I am slowly remembering that I am a fairly interesting human being with skills and talents to offer; and despite the always present Debbie Downer in my brain stoking the anxiety fire, I know I’ll find a way to use my skills for good. Or evil. I haven’t found my calling yet.

Funemployment Tip #1: Don’t panic / Start a blog, because you have a lot of free time and your mother always says you should.