How committed are you?

The one thing you can say about corporate types is that they’re not commitmentphobes.

In fact, it seems that every other company is committed to something – whether it’s quality, excellence, innovation, success or, in the case of PepsiCo, “Performance with a Purpose”.

What’s clever about the “C” word is that it’s a pledge about where you’d like to be, not a statement of where you are. To the delight of your Legal & Compliance team, it has an element of postponement that gets you off the hook from actually being what you claim to be.

Actually, the commitment cliché has become such a staple of the corporate lexicon that I don’t think people really know they’re doing it. I urge you to think twice next time you’re tempted to pledge your to commitment to some spurious corporate value.

Below are my top three offenders – do you recognise your company here?

We’re committed to diversity

(If your Legal & Compliance colleagues are particularly twitchy, insert another layer of prevarication into the formula by saying “we’re committed to valuing diversity”).

Sounds like you mean: These days, we employ people from every Oxbridge college – even that one founded in the seventies that allows its students to walk on the grass in the college gardens (how outré!). After all, someone’s got to do the grunt work around here – you don’t seal a multi-billion M&A deal without having talent you can trust with the strip-club bookings.

Better to say: Everyone’s welcome!

We’re committed to transparency

Sounds like you mean: Yeah, well. Once we’ve quietly paid off that employee who we suspect had dinner with a senior member of the SEC last night. And cleansed our balance sheet of all those NASTIs (Non-profitable, Acronym-Steeped Toxic Investments) that we invented during a drunken game of strip Scrabble at that offsite in Hawaii in 2004 (happy days!). Oh, and the SZICs (Special Zombie Investment Companies) that we created to mop up the NASTIs even our clients wouldn’t buy don’t count, right?

Better to say: We’ve got nothing to hide.

We’re committed to customer satisfaction

Sounds like you mean: The only one who’s likely to be committed around here is the customer driven to the brink of insanity by endless tinny repetitions of the first 16 bars of Morning Mood, punctuated by the chirpily voiced assurance that “your call is important to us”.

Better to say: How can I help?

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5 Responses to “How committed are you?”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Karen Lindsey Lloyd, Richard Gray. Richard Gray said: Some interesting musings on the corporate use of the word "commitment": http://to.ly/3ZXf [...]

  2. Brad Shorr says:

    Clare, your fine edits demonstrate how a few words in plain English have far greater impact than hazy, lazy corporate phraseology.

  3. Deb Mackey says:

    Clare:
    Amen I say to thee. I’m retweeting you on this in the hope that my corp. clis take heed.

    Write on!

  4. Clare Lynch says:

    Thanks for your comments, Brad and Deb. Great to know I’m not the only one fighting the good fight against corporate babble.

  5. [...] goodcopybadcopy A blog about good business writing and bad. Especially the bad. Because there’s so much more of the bad. « How committed are you? [...]

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