Called out for ranting on Forbes about Corporate-Speak…

When I got an email from Forbes saying I had been called out I thought I might have won a free seat at a webinar or perhaps a nice eBook. But it was a comment of mine that I had made on a wonderful article called  Why Is Business Writing So Awful? that rang their chimes. As you can imagine seeing that headline made my teeth start to grind and I went into full rant mode.

Got called out for ranting on Forbes about Corporate-Speak...

Thankfully, getting called out on Forbes doesn’t mean you have failed at hedge funds or baseball…

Forbes comment with a sense of humor

They seem to have liked my comment, and to be fair St Moo with all guns blazing and vitriol on speed dial can still be amusing in places.

The original article rather kindly bemoaned the utter uselessness of old fashioned Business-Speak and more recent Corporate-Speak, making the extremely valid point that there is no quicker way to extinguish the enthusiasm of a potential or existing employee than by spewing out streams of business vagaries that are about as inspiring and motivating as cold vomit.

The author of that article, Liz Ryan, I believe, was the instigator of my “calling out.” She is a widely published HR expert and founder of the worldwide Human Workplace movement to reinvent work for people. Here are a couple of quotes from her article with which I’m sure you will identify …

“Bureaucratic zombie language is incompatible with a Human Workplace. Excessive and suffocating policies and employee handbooks are instruments of control rather than community …”

“It’s not just policies and manuals, but all business writing that is overdue for an overhaul. We can speak to one another like humans at work. When you do that, you don’t get discrimination claims and upset employees and apathy. You get people excited because anything that people can do in a group can be exciting if you figure out what’s cool about it.”

Death to Corporate-Speak: music to my ears

If anything was disturbing about that article of Liz Ryan’s, it’s the fact that it was written just a few weeks ago in 2015 and represents corporate policies that still are throttling business progress all over the commercialized world – and probably even more so in developing countries.

As I suggest in my comment which I reproduce below, Corporate-Speak – or “bureaucratic zombie language” as Liz Ryan so nicely puts it – is often used as convenient filibustering technique to give the speaker or writer a bit of time to figure out what they actually think.

Should we dare suggest that corporations’ reluctance to dump Corporate-Speak is due to their fear of getting naked and doing some straight talking without hiding behind a bunch of bland words?

Here is what I said in my “called out” comment

Ahhhh … the dreaded Corporate-Speak. I have been shouting obscenities at it for more decades than I care to admit to.

It began in the 19th century when people actually spoke like that most of the time, and in the intervening years became a convenient smokescreen behind which twitchy suits could hide until they figured out what they actually wanted to say, if anything.

So revered has Corporate-Speak become that on one occasion only a few years ago when I was hired to write brochure copy for a client whose target audience was no-bullsh*t blue collar workers, the asinine creative director made me rewrite the whole (correctly targeted) thing … “more formal, longer words, longer sentences – you, know, make it more ‘corporate!’”

All I can say is thank Heavens for social media which gradually is teaching the business community that it’s OK to write as people speak; sadly, though, as you point out there are still pockets of resistance which we writer-snipers still have to flush out.

How do you feel about Corporate-Speak?

Please read Liz Ryan’s article and share your views…


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