Leo D'Angelo Fisher Columnist

Leo covers management and leadership issues, business trends and corporate strategy. He is a former senior business writer at The Bulletin and a former host of The Business Hour on 3AW.

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The jargon monkey trap

Published 21 March 2012 13:12, Updated 22 March 2012 05:03

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You don’t have to tell me. I know that I’m losing my long-running battle against the scourge of management weasel language. The all-powerful jargon junta is impervious to the derision that their convoluted corporate cant attracts. What most of us consider indecipherable sludge these preening nitwits consider masterstrokes of modern management communication.

Not that too much store should be placed on the word “communication”. The aim of jargon is not to communicate, it is to impress. Or so the language-manglers believe. They are too self-absorbed to realise that they impress no one but others of their ilk.

Take this excruciating twaddle from an executive coach and adviser who plainly has a raging love affair with the sound of his own voice. He writes: “The current Cartesian empiricist terminology that regards people as capital is both faddist and, increasingly, institutionally psychopathic.” I’ve got a feeling I might agree with him but who would know? Without any sense of irony, he also makes this impenetrable criticism of the language used by a rival management consultant: “[S]he also lapses into the now very popular sporting analogy of ‘high performing teams’, which reveals a transactional objectivity of inferred externalities.”

Even among the jargonistas, there is no requirement for jargon to actually mean anything. Jargon is its own end.

Thus the prominent newspaper display advertisement by an executive search firm in which a “Proactive General Manager” was sought. What’s a “Proactive” general manager? The only possible clue in the ad was a single reference to the “entrepreneurial individual” being sought by the employer. The meaning would have been instantly clear had the ad been headlined “Entrepreneurial General Manager”.

Business jargon is about stringing random words together in the belief that those words combined take on, if not meaning, a power of their own. A management consultant boasts with evident self-satisfaction: “We make a commitment to enhance your business and sustain a proactive continuous improvement.” Not to be outdone, another consultant proclaims: “I am passionate about working with people who strive to implement, actuate and realise technology investments.”

This meaningless blather reminds us that when jargonistas are not being proactive they are invariably passionate. But never perceptive.

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