Twelve management jargon gems we all love to hate
Why does our boss insist we “go forward” to lands of “deliverables,” stopping off on the “journey” to “drill down” into “best practice”? Management euphemisms have flooded the working landscape. With the new series of W1A on our screens and Thinking Allowed exploring the phrases we all love to loathe, we have gathered together the ultimate collection of cringe-worthy, toe-curling business buzzwords, guaranteed to have you spinning in your swivel chair.
1. Touch base
If your colleague asks you to “touch base” he isn’t, fortunately, asking for a foot massage. The term simply means make contact – either in the form of a call, email or face-to-face meeting. It originates from baseball, where runners have to touch the base for a run to be legal. Needless to say, the phrase can make even the most tactile of employees feel uncomfortable.
2. Close of play
A term to trick us into thinking the working day can be likened to a lengthy game of football or a scrabble tournament, “get it to me by COP” simply means finish that work by 5.00pm or there’ll be trouble.
3. Blue sky thinking
How can you generate new and original ideas, unfettered by conventional restraints and traditional preconceptions? Deploy blue sky thinking! Alternatively, you might be asked to “think outside the box”, although any company that expected you to sit inside one in the first place is probably facing an employment tribunal.
Ironically, decomplexify simply complexifies the word for simplify. Simple!
5. Low hanging fruit
This is a metaphor for easily obtained gains or “quick wins”: the simplest tasks that produce fast results or profits, or targeting the easiest customers first. It is also, however, deeply flawed – apple or peach pickers in fact start at the top of the tree, where the fruit ripens first. So the next time you’re criticised for not harvesting enough low hanging fruit, simply pass your boss the number of a local orchard owner.
6. Punch a puppy
Deeply upsetting for dog lovers, the term refers to doing something detestable or unpleasant in the short term but that’s good for the business in the long run. Whoever came up with this one was probably more of a cat person.
7. Peel the onion
To uncover a problem, one layer at a time, in order to better understand what’s causing it. A workplace euphemism that’s guaranteed to make your eyes water.
8. Drill down
Veering away from vegetable metaphors and on to DIY, this just means to examine something in detail: to “drill down” into the issue. Do not, under any circumstances, turn up to the weekly meeting with your power tools.
9. Run it up the flagpole
The full catchphrase, “let’s run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it”, refers to testing the popularity of a new idea or proposal. It emerged from the advertising agencies of Madison Avenue in New York during the late 1950s and early 1960s. A alternative might be “let’s throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” – perhaps originating from the theory that perfectly cooked spaghetti will stick to a wall. As does extremely overcooked pasta, for that matter.
If someone asks you to “cascade that strategy down through the organisation” they probably mean send a company-wide email. Or tell people while you’re making tea.
11. Strategic staircase
A business plan shaped like a staircase. We’ll take the lift, thanks.
Businesses have come up with some pretty creative ways to tell people they’re out of a job. To soften the blow and avoid using the dreaded “downsizing”, companies have informed employees they’re getting the boot due to “rightsizing” or “smartsizing”. You might find yourself “transitioned”, “graduated” or “realigned” – all of which are going to mean clearing your desk and handing over your swipe card.