Tautology Tuesday: "Working in partnership together"
In my last post on tautology, I talked about how desperate and untrustworthy the tautological phrase “worldwide, global business” sounds. And no doubt the employees of all “worldwide, global businesses” are also committed to the equally tautological “working in partnership together”. Ah, we’re all so collaborative, aren’t we? We don’t merely work together. And even the phrase “working in partnership” – which itself some might consider slightly nauseating – doesn’t quite capture the extent to which we’re all deeply committed to shared success, common goals and a mutual vision for the future.
No lazy co-workers here. No backstabbing bosses known by all as “She Who Makes The Trains Run On Time”. No HR professionals plotting with Legal to rewrite our contracts so we’re cheaper to fire. Nope, we’re all happily “working in partnership together”.
The phrase has the sort of fake work-place camaraderie that the FT’s Lucy Kellaway brilliantly lampooned when she had her hilarious character Martin Lukes describe his office-mates as “co-colleagues” (always while bitching about them, of course).
But, more sinisterly, the phrase also reeks of government bureaucracy and fake democracy. Google it and you’ll find that the “working in partnership” tautology crime occurs almost exclusively among politicians, local councillors, and the CEOs of those public-private-quango type places where they stick another zero on the invoice because they know the taxpayer's footing the bill. In short, megalomaniacs desperate to convince us that our views matter and that they’re working with us, not just for us.
So, for example, the UK Home Office is “working in partnership together” to reduce crime, while another minister says the government has a “vision that by working in partnership together we can do more to improve peoples' lives.”
Or how about former UK prime minister Tony Blair, who in 2007 declared: “I would like to see the US, ourselves, Europe, working in partnership together to rebuild Iraq” (presumably having “worked in partnership together” to bomb it to bits in the first place).
So whenever I read the phrase “working in partnership together”, I don’t think collaboration, consensus and community like I know they want me to. I think conflicting interests and – as Noam Chomsky would put it – “consent without consent”.
So use it if you want to, but be aware that some of us are on to you.