Twelve more words to ban from your workplace

1. Values
All 90,000 of your employees around the globe share the same six corporate values decreed from the heights of the HR director’s office, do they? Are you sure about that?

2. Change
Not so long ago, change was something we could all believe in. It’s just a shame that, as with Tory governments, when your boss uses the word “change”, it probably means you’re about to lose your job.

3. Offering
Have you noticed that nobody provides a service any more? Keen to sacrifice themselves upon the altar of The Client, companies now have “offerings”. Sadly, when I click on “Our Offerings” on a corporate website, I’m invariably confronted with some babble about “go-to-market strategies” and “cutting-edge solutions aligned to your specific needs”. Disappointing when what I really wanted was a burnt cow, a tenth of your annual salary and the life of your firstborn son.

4. Sustainability
This one seems to have overtaken “diversity” as the cliché of choice for the corporation that wants to sound like it gives a shit. Are you tempted to become one of the thousands of businesses claiming to be “shaping a sustainable future” through your products and services? Google “the earth plus plastic” and have think about how you sound.

5. Platform
Whenever someone claims to be building a platform for change/action/success, it’s a sign they’re stalling for time. So a useful word to include in your objectives for the year as it’ll make you sound busy without requiring actual work.

6. Excellence
Mere competence doesn’t cut it in a world where everyone else is in the business of excellence. Like “solutions”, “excellence” is one of those words to which other corporate clichés invariably adhere. If you’re not actively “delivering” excellence, then you’re probably at least “passionate” about it. And if you’re building a “platform” for it, it’s probably because you want it to be “sustainable”.

7. Outside-in thinking
No, not the path to true enlightenment to be pursued through yoga, sweat lodges and psychedelic drugs. Rather, the path to true customer-centricity to be pursued through paying a management consultant thousands of pounds to spout nonsense like this. As far as I can gather, “outside-in thinking” just means thinking like a normal person. The sort of person who wouldn’t say “outside-in thinking”.

8. Practitioner
Include this impressively Greek-sounding and consonant clustery word in your job title and you instantly sound like you’ve spent years training in an elite medical academy – as do all those chiropractic practitioners, homeopathic practitioners, astrological counselling practitioners and Bach Flower practitioners with their advanced diplomas from various departments of the Des O’Connor University of Shoplifting. Now the corporate world has its own public relations practitioners, marketing practitioners and internal comms practitioners, who no one suspects of selling snake oil at all.

9. Holistic
The original business woo woo word. Need to win more clients? Simply let that marketing practitioner sprinkle some of her “holistic solutions” over your brand.

10. Experience
We no longer shop. Instead, we have a “luxurious retail experience”. I don’t merely get a haircut – I go for a “total hair experience” (available from the Bond-Street-of-the-burbs that is Sutton High Street, if you’re interested). What’s more, you’ll find that an expensive glass is the most effective way to “enhance your wine drinking experience”. This vile hyperbole loses further points by virtue of its frequent use with the word “ultimate”.

11. Toolkit
Remember when the economy was booming and every other executive wanted to jack in the nine-to-five to become a plumber? Ah, the romance of wearing overalls to work. Of profiting from the nation’s love affair with ever-rising property prices. Of being paid to stick your hand down a blocked toilet. Lacking a bagful of pipe cutters, the rest of us got in on the zeitgeist by creating “Toolkits” for “Successful Delivery”, “Joined-Up Working”, “Diversity” and the like. Funnily enough, now everyone’s feeling grateful to have a job – any job – it’s been a while since I’ve heard this one.

12. Benchmarking
A word you’d never use outside the office. A word you’d never use inside the office, unless you were trying to suck up to your boss. A word made all the more revolting by its frequent pairing with “best practice”. According to Wikipedia, the term was first used by cobblers when measuring people’s shoes, so with a bit of luck its blue-collar associations will send it the way of “toolkit”.

For more words that drive me mad, see Thirty words you need to stop using today and Another 30 words and phrases you should stop using right now

12 comments so far . . . come and pitch in!

  1. Nick says:

    Number 2 is very accurate – this happened to me just a few weeks ago. Change indeed!

    Thanks for posting.

  2. Clare Lynch says:

    Sorry to hear that, Nick.

  3. Steve says:

    1, 4 and 11 here. I wish you’d stop now, you’re not leaving us much.
    PS Nick, my former employer re-evaluated its cost base recently. Good luck.

  4. Lisa Riemers says:

    Hear here. I was ranting about thought leaders the other day (have now read all three posts!) Like the business equivalent of a man who says “trust me”.

    One thing that is missing from these posts is “innovative”. And innovation. And innovators.

  5. Brad Shorr says:

    Great list, Clare. I’ll take partial exception with one: experience. In the web development world, the quality of user experience on e-commerce sites is a significant issue. Used in that sense, I’m a-OK with experience.

  6. Clare Lynch says:

    Brad, I’ll let you have “experience” if you promise never to pair it with “holistic”. And if only because I’m grateful you’re not talking about the customer’s “journey”. Oh, you’ve just given me an idea for a future post…

  7. Clare Lynch says:

    Steve, excellent – another one to add to the pile of euphemisms for giving people the sack. That’s the essence of change: one day you’re “human capital”, the next you’re a “cost base”.

  8. Victoria says:

    Just found your blog, this cracked me up! Numbers 3 and 10 really stand out for me. Everything is an ‘experience’ these days isn’t it! Great rant, so sick of office jargon.

  9. Excellent list, but, erm, wouldn’t you like to add ‘workplace’? What’s wrong with office, shop or factory?

  10. Mr Parrot says:

    The phrase I should have added to this list is ‘world class’ which has been rampant in the NHS for a few years without anyone knowing what it actually means.

  11. Ade Oduyemi says:

    I beg to include ‘space’, as in ‘we are major players in the retail space’. Oh lord.

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