A recent survey of office workers led to the compilation of a dozen management phrases that people detest. Top of the list was ‘touch base’ followed by ‘blue sky thinking’ but others that caught the eye were ‘thought shower’ and – by far the worst – to ‘punch a puppy’.
While it may get up some people’s noses, it is, when you think about it, a business idiom – shorthand for something that can take time to explain or a memorable soundbite that encapsulates a meaning.
‘Listen up, team! I’ve just spoken with the MD and she says it’s no use, we’ve got to do something really, really nasty that will, in the end, ultimately and unequivocably, benefit us all.”
“You mean…we’ve got to punch a puppy?”
"You got it!"
Short. Instant. Memorable. No less unpalatable no matter how many times you hear or read it.
And so, while many of us complain about the usage, there is an argument that says they serve a purpose. If nothing else, a meeting wouldn’t be a meeting if someone didn’t ‘run something up the flagpole’ or try to figure out how to ‘leverage’ a ‘paradigm shift’. Why? Because without these toe-curling beauties, you wouldn’t be able to play ‘buzzword bingo’ to help pass the time during a meeting. And let’s be honest, who hasn’t played this great game at one time or another?
After all, buzzword bingo is all part of the office workers’ revolt – a mildly subversive way to get back at those in charge. Twenty years ago you scribbled iyt down on piece of paper. Today, there’s an app for that.
But as you get into it, you realise that this is just the tip of a large piece of frozen water that floats at sea, where most of said frozen water lies beneath the waves rather that the smaller bit that stick out on top. (See what I did there?)
Our unease with business jargon also extends to the meeting itself. Often, they’re in anonymous buildings that drain creativity and restrict productivity. Fundamentally, they are about function and not serving the softer, squidgy needs of people. It gets worse when you need a space for an offsite meeting or sales conference. An anonymous conference centre inside the M25 anyone?
If only there was another way...a light, airy 18th Century thatched barn with stunning views over the rolling hills of the South Downs perchance?