We here at Hanson+Doremus try to be “impactful” and “value-add.” We are all about “big data” (we read multiple newspapers!) we have “great capacity” (10+ employees!) and operate “holistically” and “sustainably” (just like the SATs, I am going to assume it is OK to guess on the meaning of some of these.)
Buzzwords. Buzzwords. The bane of our existence. Bartleby, the columnist in The Economist, calls this kind of jargon “a sort of nonlanguage.” Buzzwords are “profound seeming phrases devised by someone important to make something sound better than it is,” says Olga Khazan writing in The Atlantic in 2020. A colleague, Kate Cray, came up with a March Madness style playdown where fellow workers voted on the Buzzwords in each bracket. A “Buzz-off” if we can give it a title (see below). The winners, or losers if you will, were “value proposition,” which bested “circle back,” and “lean in,” Sheryl Sandberg’s term for women asserting themselves in the workplace, besting “holistic approach.” You need to remember, however, The Atlantic article is from 2020. Jargon changes with internet-like speed.
Online review site TrustRadius recently published a list of the 27 most annoying Business Buzzwords in 2021. “New normal,” “synergy,” “circle back,” “take this offline,” and “pivot” head the field this year.
Bartleby of The Economist gives three reasons for the rise of all this corporate gobbledygook. The first is that corporate executives sometimes don’t have much to say other than “profits were down” but they need to say it impressively. So, they might talk of “team spirit” or “corporate ethos.” Also, the nature of business has changed today. No longer are we just talking about tons of steel or manufacturing tractors. Now it is the service sector that dominates and tasks here are often difficult to explain, like the cloud or systems software. So, executives revert to imprecise terms (read Buzzwords) to help explain.
Finally, there is the need to establish your credentials. If you are a doctor or lawyer, you have taken exams to prove your expertise. Not so with managers, so you revert to Buzzwords which you hope will impress both the public and the employees you are trying to lead.
I have always thought the reason The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Economist are such good publications is when they use Buzzwords, they define them. Lesser publications don’t really understand the terms and so leave them hanging, confusing everyone.
Being “Thought Leaders” in our field and understanding the power of “paradigm shifts” in business language, you can rest assured that Hanson+Doremus will “circle back” and “touch base” on this important subject in the future.