Blame it on the internet.
If it wasn’t for the internet, we wouldn’t have giant tech companies and their high-tech jargon seeping into our business lives, making everything we do, and everything we say about everything we do, totally unintelligible.
Since Hector was a pup, giving and getting feedback has been integral to successful companies. Getting negative feedback may be painful, yes, but it does give employees insight into what they are doing wrong and how they might improve. The giver of feedback also benefits. If it’s a boss, they get to feel super-powerful and work out their sadism in a company-approved procedure.
Well, you can forget about getting feedback ever again. From here on out, you will be getting (and giving) “feedforward,” which has the disadvantage of making very little sense but does replace the negative “back” with the more positive “forward.”
Of course, “back” is not always a negative. Imagine the fate of a jungle expedition, coming across a herd of angry rhinos, if the leader decided that they shouldn’t bring negativity into the situation and instead announced, “Let’s go forward.”
Score one for the rhinos, I’m afraid.
I first realized a new crop of workplace jargon had ballooned into a pervasive miasma of office-wide obfuscation when I read “How Corporate Jargon Can Obscure Reality,” a recent article from Lora Kelley in the Atlantic.
Kelley explains the birth of the new buzzwords to “industries looking to emulate tech, with its notoriously high volume of jargon.”
This is why employees in low-tech or no-tech industries no longer work. They “pivot,” “ideate” and “synergize.” They “make asks”; they “operationalize.”
I’m not sure these nuggets of jargon will replace our traditional buzzwords for describing employee performance, like “goof off” and “tuned out” and don’t forget “kiss up,” a very descriptive old-school buzzword hardly improved if you call it “oculationize.”
Are there any advantages to the new nomenclature? In terms of job titles, there is a refreshing honesty. Think about the VP who becomes the “VP of Making Dreams Die.”
What better way to describe a manager who will enthusiastically agree to implementing your bold plans, which will never see the light of day, unless, of course, they reappear with the VP’s name on them?
The diaspora of office workers during the pandemic has given rise to the title, “Head of Team Anywhere.” The job description for this position must include finding employees in their home offices around the globe, and twisting their arms — and their salaries — until they agree to come back to the office.
The Head of Team Anywhere is also responsible for ideating irresistible improvements to woo the remote worker back to their cubicles. If you are currently enjoying “Fondue Friday” and “Free Kidney Transplant Tuesday,” you now know who to thank.
There is also the “Head of Dynamic Work,” a title which describes an executive who encourages employees to shift smoothly between departments, so that they can combine the expertise of Technology and Finance to develop a product, bring in Operations Management to actually produce the product, add Marketing to sell the product and, finally, Human Resources, so they can fire themselves when the product bombs. Now, that’s dynamic.
Hoping for a rebrand, the Human Resources Department has jumped on the name game. Whatever the resources it makes available, no one ever believed they are for the benefit of humans. This gave birth to a new title, “Chief People Officer.” This didn’t work, either, since everyone knows HR professionals are not people. Thus, we now deal with the “Chief Heart Officer.”
It’s a good name, but HR has definitely aligned itself with the wrong organ. Chief Liver Officer or Chief Small Intestine Officer are much more accurate. Chief Ulcer Officer has a nice ring to it, too, since an ulcer is exactly what you will wind up with after dealing with this department.
(Note: The head of HR has the opportunity to capitalize on their exceptional ability to instill fear. The “Chief of the Firing Squad” title would accomplish this perfectly.)
If management’s decision to play fast and loose with titles bothers you, don’t think you can escape. You’re never going to be fired. You will be “re-engineered.” You won’t be laid off. You’ll experience a “Reduction in Force” or “RIF.” It’s a comforting acronym for those who no longer have a “Go-Forward Role.”
You have a “Go Home Role,” or a “Go Bye-Bye Role,” or “an opportunity to explore what life has to offer.”
Whatever you call it, you’re still fired.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected]. To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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