If you hang around corporate America, it doesn’t take long before you start hearing what I call “corpospeak.” It usually develops for one of three reasons. It can make people believe they’re taking the sting out of an ugly or unpleasant situation. It can make people believe they’re sounding smarter than they really are. Or it can make people feel part of the hip crowd that knows how to use the latest corpospeak correctly. Sometimes, corpospeak can help foster a sense of camaraderie; people bond because they have fun with the same words. Most of the time, though, corpospeak lets people be lazy with their thoughts and speech, and it lets foggy ideas masquerade as well-developed thought.
You know the classics of corpospeak. People don’t get fired; they get downsized. A project hasn’t moved beyond its original objectives; it’s experiencing “scope creep.” It’s not just a plan; it’s a “path forward.”
I’ve found a website that is delightfully obsessed with cataloging corpospeak, and it’s opened a new world of inanity. It’s called The Office Life, and it has the most exhaustive list of corpospeak I’ve ever seen. Here are just a few examples:
- Actionable. Originally a legal word referring to anything that affords grounds for a lawsuit. Business people have perverted it to mean anything on which an action can be taken.
- Al Desco. Describes any meal eaten at your desk. “I slept in so I’m having breakfast Al Desco.”
- Around. Replaces ‘about’ with a softer, tangential approach. “We need to dialog around your choice of work attire.”
- Onboarding. The process of garnering support for a project. Also, familiarizing a new hire, which often includes orientation, filling out tax forms, training, obtaining key cards, etc.
- One throat to choke. Dealing with one large supplier for many items. Then if something goes wrong, there is only one company to rage at.
- Optics. How something appears. “I understand the optics of this situation, but despite how it looks, we have not acted inappropriately.”
- Socialize. To facilitate group discussions about an issue. “Let’s give them time to socialize the new material with their teams.”
- SPOC. Single Point Of Contact. An acronym that recognizes the efficiency found in appointing one person to speak for a group. “I’ll have my SPOC get in touch with your SPOC.”
You get the idea. Check out The Office Life for more of this drivel. Even better, let me know the corpospeak that annoys you!