The fresh college graduate entering the office world will be bombarded with a variety of strange expressions that he may have trouble understanding at first. Over time, however, our eager beaver’s ears will begin to adjust and his speech will adopt some of this uniquely clichéd and stale lingo. It is only a matter of time and willingness to toe the party line, but in the end most people would rather fit in than stand out. The Japanese have a fitting proverb for this: “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.”
It is par for the course that while the level of the English language stagnates at best―but mostly declines―in the general culture, the growth and spread of meaningless, overused business expressions is experiencing a renaissance. Western literature and poetry may be at their lowest points in the last half millennium, but the proliferation of useless, timeworn office expressions and business jargon marches on mercilessly. Ubiquitous social media, the internet, English-language global television broadcasts and movies, standardization of higher education across the world (especially the much-ballyhooed MBA degree), and the tireless, homogenizing cultural globalization are all enabling this phenomenon.
At one of my former jobs, I kept a running list that ended up being a few pages long of the inevitable, trite business lingo I would hear on a daily basis. No one seems to have mastered speaking in business jargon better than your average MBA. There really is no better way to work on developing this critical career skill than to drop a $100 grand on an overrated, unstimulating, watered-down, two-year business education. Bullsh*ting is a highly evolved business art form that many MBAs have a natural talent for and excel in. Maybe that is the ‘B’ in the MBA.
As the video below shows, our friends across the pond are also not immune to this contagion. During my corporate days, I often felt like Stan in the video hoping to fly under the radar at yet another pointless meeting. Unlike Stan, however, I tended to keep my thoughts to myself instead of speaking up and parroting what someone else has said, but rephrased with alternate hackneyed business terminology. I could rarely get myself to pull off this phony act with a straight face and a clear conscience.
The most important point of the majority of these office meetings is to look involved, enthusiastic, and concerned. You can accomplish this by chipping in with that one unhelpful, but commonplace comment that uses as many buzzwords as can be shamelessly squeezed into one minute. By speaking the same lingo as your coworkers and actively participating, you show that you are part of the same company culture, build fake camaraderie, and signal to the higher-ups that you are a team player with long-term potential as a corporate cog.
There you go. Your ticket to the C-suite. You can thank me in 20 years.