Turned-off by jargon

Nov 06 2006 by Brian Amble Print This Article

We're sick to death of "blue-sky thinking", burned-out by "brain dumps" and baffled by the "helicopter view". Our ducks are not in a row, we're not thinking outside the box and we certainly don't want a heads up about all singing from the same hymn sheet.

More than half of UK employees may say they are sick to death of management jargon, but as a survey from UK organisation Investors in People has found, jargon can put up real barriers between managers and their teams.

Highlighting the potential "desk divide" that jargon can cause, over half (55 per cent) of senior managers think jargon is harmless, whilst four out of ten (42 per cent) employees think that it creates misunderstanding about roles and responsibilities.

More than a third (37 per cent) go as far as to claim that it results in mistrust in the workplace and makes people feel inadequate.

Almost two thirds of employees would prefer no jargon at all at work, yet, with over a third saying that its use is on the rise, the problem looks set to grow if left unchecked.

Jargon also appear to be a particular issue in larger organisations. Fewer than one in five of people in organisations of 2-49 employees say jargon is used at their workplace while two thirds of people in organisations with 5,000 or more employees say it is used where they work.

This picture is one that is backed up by finance recruiter Nigel Lynn, who, in a survey carried out last year found that one of the biggest drawbacks for new recruits to large organisations is coming to terms with the jargon.

The survey found that there were a wide range of issues from coping with new systems to internal politics but the most common complaint, cited by over two thirds of respondents, was the prevalence of jargon or 'management speak', as one participant put it.

"We seem to have left day-to-day English behind for a whole new language", said one respondent. "We're not people anymore – or even employees – we're 'human capital' – and apparently our employers want to have 'facetime' with us. It's like something out of an Orwell novel!"

Ands this simple lack of comprehension can give way to other more embarrassing dangers as one respondent found out: "When my manager told me that or new accounting system was going to be 'big banged' 'in quarter three (meaning launched) I burst out laughing – I thought he was joking – unfortunately he wasn't!"

Predictably, many of the professionals questioned took a cynical view of the widespread use of buzz words and jargon. "In my view, this sort of terminology is just a mask – a cover up", said one respondent

"If no-one really understands what you are saying, then you can't be criticised for it"

And as another so succinctly put it, "for those of you who remember the A Team, it was Mr T who said 'aint got no time for jibber jabber'"

"The vocabulary of the business school and management guru has been creeping into most large businesses for some time, says Steve Carter, managing Director of Nigel Lynn.

"There is a place for specialised language but when it gets in the way of communicating ideas or information, then it constrains, it limits and it fails."

So get your tanks off my runway and go pick your own low-hanging fruit.