Are you tired of “the new normal,” “social media” and trying to “monetize” everything? Welcome to the club.
The business world is always a bastion of buzzwords. Whenever there's a simple way to explain a concept, strategy or job, someone decides to make it more complex with a new word or phrase.
Advertising Age's “Book of Tens” features a recently compiled list of the worst business buzzwords of 2010, “Jargoniest Jargon We've Heard All Year.” “Tweet” and “2.0” didn't make the list, but there are plenty of other favorites. Here's a sample:
The New Normal: “A catchall for the dismal post-Great Recessionary world. Let's face it, this feels normal to almost no one and good to even fewer people. In marketing, where rules and conditions of social media, mobile and other digital marketing evolve constantly, it's particularly meaningless. Or, maybe that's the ... new ... normal — aieee!!!”
Sustainability: “A good concept gone bad by mis- and overuse. It's come to be a squishy, feel-good catchall for doing the right thing. Used properly, it describes practices through which the global economy can grow without creating a fatal drain on resources. It's not synonymous with ‘green.' Is organic agriculture sustainable, for example, if more of the world would starve through its universal application?”
At the End of the Day: “This pernicious weed of language takes six words to say what ‘ultimately,' or perhaps better still, nothing at all, could convey better.” When I wrote about these clichéd terms on “The Plastics Blog” recently, readers shared a few of their own least favorites. One suggested “low-hanging fruit” for cost savings. “Ish” started off as a euphemism, but in business circles it more commonly seems to be a substitute for “sort of” (I think that one comes from the TV show "The Office"). “Stop the bleeding” was a common term the past couple of years, referring to solutions to counteract things the economy had done to certain businesses. Markets and suppliers used to change. Not any more. Now paradigms shift.
The sector of the manufacturing industry that deals with quality control always seems to be coming up with new jargon. They've brought us numerous ISO-certification levels, Six Sigma black belts and dozens of ways of describing old-fashioned quality.
I think human resources is the next biggest offender. Just think of the ways they've come up with to describe cutting jobs: We've got rightsizing, downsizing and RIFs, all to take the sting out of the previous generation's jargon term, the layoff.
And for those lucky enough to avoid those terms, you can stay on the job and learn how to be incentivized to work harder.
Many readers even have jargony job titles these days. For our "People Watch" column, we frequently get notices of new hires and promotions that sound more like a long description of the person's duties than an actual title. Managers are now named to “head” a department or function — really, that's the title they submit to us for publication: “head.” With all the heads running around the plastics industry these days, I wonder if before long we'll see rank-and-file workers named after other body parts.
Loepp is PN managing editor and author of “The Plastics Blog.”