It’s unreal how buzzwords and bullcrap have completely permeated our language and our businesses. It’s almost unconscionable how we simply tolerate it rather than pushing hard to get back to simplicity.
I was reading an industry magazine this morning and came across a quote in one of those little quote boxes. I decided to read it (after all, they set it aside in a quote box *and* put the guy’s head shot in the box too therefore he must be superbrilliant to rank a head shot and a quote). First I had to see whose brilliance I was about to have the pleasure of reading. The guy is an EVP of Global Strategy for a very reputable firm. I got all tingly. This was gonna be some life-changing stuff. I was sure of it. Then I read this:
“To successfully address senior management’s concerns, human resources leadership needs to embrace its strategic role as an executive partner, and define and execute a holistic human capital management strategy that builds a superior corporate culture based on performance and accountability.”
My head exploded. It was like the guy had been force-fed Roget’s and the last twelve years of Harvard Business Review. I was completely dumbfounded – not because of the brilliance of his insight but because of the complete load of crap that had been spewed onto that page killing hundreds of trees (Oh! The humanity!). I wish Kanye had been at that interview: “Imma let you finish but… Mike can say that in about 50% fewer words.”
So here’s my take on what the guy was really trying to say:
“HR needs to work directly with the C-suite to create an HR strategy that ensures our people can consistently execute the things we ask them to do.”
Is it perfect? No. Is there 80% less crap in there? I’m pretty sure it’s “yes.”
I’ve said this before when I wrote about executive presence failures you might be exhibiting (among other things): buzzwords sound dumb (read the full rant here). When you string together a streak of buzzwords, you sound like you’re overcompensating for something and simply can’t afford a Ferrari so you use “synergize to leverage” instead.
Speak plainly people. It’s more efficient. There’s less confusion. You’ll sound confident.
Look at those last four sentences. Three words each. They convey powerful and simple points. Dare I say that last paragraph approaches elegance. When you speak like you swallowed a thesaurus, people start thinking you don’t know what you’re talking about and you’re simply blathering on to cover up your lack of real knowledge. If not that, then they think you’re a pompous ass who’s showing off how much better than them you are because you’re bustin’ some polysyllabic moves.
Stop. Now. Eliminate it from your vocabulary. If you hear others doing it, stop them too. The easiest way to do so (because they might be more senior than you are and you don’t want to make any career limiting moves) is to simply play dumb: “Can you break that down for me? I’m not sure I understood what you’re getting at. Can you simplify it a little so I can make sure I understand?” If you do this carefully and at targeted times you can help change their buzzwordy behavior.
If that doesn’t work, bust out the handy dandy Buzzword Bingo card I’ve made for this post (the image up top) and use it in your next meeting. Once they’ve hit that magical streak of five bullcrap buzzwords that give you a row, shout “BINGO!” at the top of your lungs and leave the meeting.
Am I the only one out here who’s sick of the bluster and bullcrap? How do you handle it when it starts piling up around you?