by Jennifer Sey
I think the thing I dislike most about working in the corporate world is the lingo. Surprising right? It isn't the long hours, the politics, the lay offs, the existential pushing rock up hill over and over again to no avail...Nope. It's the lingo. As kind of a word snob, words like “impactful” and “incent” and phrases like “double click” and “ping me” really get my goat. For those of you who don't have to work amidst this nonsense, some quick definitions:
1. Impactful (an oldie and not so goodie): a nonexistent word coined by marketers to convey, yes, you guessed it, the “impact” of an ad campaign. Common usage: Wow, this ad is really impactful! (meaning: consumers will not fail to notice it and go buy whatever product is being featured). For my money, I'd just assume add the extra word and say: Wow, this ad has great impact!
Part of the reason people use it is because the negative expression of it – We need something that is more impactful - is a nicer, albeit more passive aggressive way of saying – This sucks. No one will notice it and it won't make them want to buy whatever we're hocking. Do it again.
The other reason, of course, is that it makes us feel like a special club with our own language. Lends credibility to our profession if we speak in a language that is ours and ours alone. Or so goes the subconscious reasoning.
2. Incent: Motivate. Encourage. Sometimes we even make it longer and say “incentivize”. Horrid. I'll stick with “incline” or “provoke”, thank you very much.
3. Double Click: Taken from our computer culture, it means “go deeper on a subject”. As in: We'll double click on how to incent purchase in a moment... Gruesome.
4. Ping me: Also taken from computer culture. What it really is is a network tool used to test whether a host is reachable. It was named after pulses of sound made by sonar to contact submarines. How we use it today: Poke me. Remind me. Tell me you're there. As in: Ping me next week when you've finished your presentation and we'll sit down and review it. Can't wait. I'm sure it will be really impactful!
I do realize that I am not the first person to complain about the use of inanities such as those mentioned above. But I bring them up only to point out that I've recently noticed a new trend in corporate linguistic foolishness, best illustrated by use of the words “dialogue” and “journey.” Here, some illustrative uses:
1. Dialogue: We'll take a break in an hour and give you a chance to dialogue about the materials we've just covered. Talk. Discuss. These words would suffice. And dialogue is generally not used as a verb. It's a noun, right? As in: The dialogue in that movie was so witty! Or, if you're a screenwriter: I have to write some dialogue today.
Heck I'd even prefer the non-word conversate, favored by rappers and hip hoppers including Ja Rule and LL Cool J. To quote Lil Flip: when we on the phone now we conversate longer. It's made up, but it's funny. Kudos.
I think there is supposed to be an implied frankness in choosing the word dialogue, instead of talk, for instance. It implies that we will converse openly and honestly, that we will listen to each other. That we care. It brings meaning to meaningless conversations. Ok, on to the next...
2. Journey: We're on a journey. It will take a while to complete the analysis but we must be thorough! Technically, this usage is not incorrect. But somehow it seems to me that it seeks to add emotional depth to drone's work. A journey is a trip, a traveling from one place to another. But, when used in place of the synonyms trip or voyage, it implies some sort of spiritual transformation, the passage from one state of mind, to another, more enlightened one.
Which leads me to my point. There seems to be a trend in corporate jargon these days to utilize words that not only create a specialized vocabulary for a particular field, but lend emotional profundity to the meaningless drudgery that we perform, quite often, for way too many hours on end. If we can dialogue about our journey together, suddenly work has an almost religious quality to it. It is shiny and everlasting, devotional. Divine, almost.
And that is what I hate about this trend. We work longer and longer hours and crowd out more and more of our lives. So in seeking to make our lives mean something, we instill work with meaning it simply does not have.
Work is what it is. And I like my job. I don't wish to do anything else. I garner a sense of accomplishment and pride from a task well done. I like that it is social and, more often than not, fun. And lets not forget, it serves a critical purpose: it feeds, shelters and insures my family. I don't make light of this. This in and of itself is profound.
But I don't need to imbue more meaning than is there in the content of the work itself to give my life intensity, significance. To give it a heartbeat. The profound meaning in my life comes from the love I feel for my children, my family, my friends. I also derive great meaning from writing. Not this piece per se (it's a little fluffy, I know), but other more personal snippets and such. The opportunity to share thoughts, to have them perhaps impact another's life, in whatever small way, is gratifying. The gazillions of letters I've received in response to my memoir, from young girl's struggling to find their way into adulthood on their own terms, and saying that my words helped. Well, that's meaning to me, of the highest order.
Corporate cogs, I beg of you, find the meaning you seek in your lives through people, religion, art, avocations. I think you'll be happier. Don't give up your work. Do it and be proud! But recognize it for what it is. And if you cannot, and the true essence of your life comes to bear in the daily grunt work of the rat race, in the writing of business plans, analyzing of data and making of ads, then so be it, I suppose. Meaning from somewhere is better than no meaning at all. But please, let's just talk about it rather than dialogue.