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