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My favorite terms from The Dictionary of Corporate Bullshit 2008 — Part 1

Today as I was cleaning up my desk, I found my old 2008 Page-A-Day Calendar of The Dictionary of Corporate Bullshit. I used to have it on my desk at Liquidnet and got a huge kick out of lamenting a new bullshit term every day. The definitions are hilarious and merciless. Sometimes the terms were so apropos that I’d give them out to my coworkers as a token of solidarity. I even gave a few to my boss.

I guess you could say that I was never really meant for the workplace. My tolerance for bullshit is legendarily low.

I saved some of my favorite pages from the first half of the year; since I quit my job in August, about 150 days were never pulled off the calendar. I’ll go through those soon and offer a follow-up post with any new gems that I find.

In the meantime, here are the ones that I saved from January through July. They still make me chuckle, and I hope they strike a cord with you, too.

glass ceiling

The concept that women or minorities in the workplace are unable to achieve high-ranking positions due to unacknowledged discrimination, which, despite recent lip service in our progressive age, is still pretty much true; the reason why women who do manage to rise to positions of considerable authority are more likely to be found in “female-friendly” disciplines, such as Human Resources, Marketing, and PR; those who make repeated efforts to break the glass ceiling may become women who behave like men.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

rigorous

Intimidating or impressive way of saying “difficult” or “thorough,” enlisted to indicate the hard-coreness of what is being described and may be used in hopes it will scare weak people away (e.g., rigorous training period) by implying that participants won’t have time to sleep or eat, when in reality it’s only being described as rigorous because someone in marketing learned a new word.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

whiteboard

A large white board present in many conference rooms, and often used for brainstorming sessions, that is there chiefly for the purpose of making the person writing on it feel important; the canvas for the chaotic display of information scrawled in illegible handwriting; a word whose most annoying use is in the verb form, e.g., “Let’s whiteboard this out,” which means “Let’s talk about this while writing our ideas down on a whiteboard as we do it”; to make matters worse, whiteboards outnumber the special “dry-erase” markers manufactured to be used with them by about 10:1.

Friday, April 18, 2008

solution

A vague, generic, and slightly mysterious term used to describe products, of all things, particularly software; so overused it has lost all meaning, except in that calling something a “solution” is really just a way of saying that it might have “added value.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

fired

What you are when your ass is canned; much different from getting laid off, because you screwed up so bad they are ejecting you from the company (what the hell did you do? because the reality is, it’s actually really kind of hard to get fired; things can get explosive and lawsuits may crop up); when possible, many companies will buy out employees who have a history of issues at the organization (read: pay them for their silence) or just make their lives so uncomfortable that they leave on their own.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

customercentric

A perspective companies declare they possess now, as if they didn’t have to in the past to survive; a label that is applied with zero effort and that needs zero follow-up, as long as the marketing and corporate communications departments are any good; not unlike the term “best of breed,” in that no company is going to claim they are not customercentric.

Friday, May 23, 2008

leadership

Guidance provided to a large group by a person or small group of people; an act that requires decisiveness, vision, the ability to be articulate, and, in an ideal world, integrity–which explains why it is virtually nonexistent in corporate America; often confused with yelling or being completely impossible to get an answer out of.

Monday, June 9, 2008

at Stanford/Wharton/Princeton/Harvard…

A conversational reference to where the speaker went to school used by major elitist tools who in reality probably aren’t that smart, because if they were, they wouldn’t need to mention their Ivy League credentials when recommending a good burger joint; the major irony is that many titans of the corporate world went to Joe Blow University, really don’t give a shit where people went to school, and in fact may regard highly credentialed colleagues as nancy boys.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Myers-Briggs

A diagnostic test one may encounter in a workshop or management training seminar, used to assess an individual’s personality and behavioral preferences; involves answering a billion questions and ultimately brands you with a four-letter “type” that is supposed to enlighten you about how you deal with other people and the world; if you’ve never done this, you feel that by taking it you will unlock the mysteries of your personality and why life sucks for you; that doesn’t happen, but you will gain an immediate affinity for people who are similarly classified, feeling as if you are of the same “tribe” and everyone else is an asshole.

Monday, June 16, 2008

network

To pursue and create business contacts with the hope that someone you meet will hook you up with a job someday; employees who network can be identified by their fascination with anyone who has a better job; those who network will get the job you want, the promotion you deserve, regardless of his or her qualifications; get used to it, or start doing it yourself.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Do you have any Corporate Bullshit terms and definitions of your own? Give it a try!

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  • http://www.nickdawson.net Nick

    strategize … I'm not wholly convinced that its a real word (despite its presence in some online dictionaries). Regardless I'm pretty sure it just means “talk” and probably does not mean that the person suggestion it has any intention of doing any real work.

  • Gabby

    I'm putting in a vote for 'high-performance' which is thrown around to instill a sense of failure and fear in typical workers.

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog Whitney Hess

      Not in any of the page-a-day calendars that I can find, but there was this entry in the book:

      THIS WILL BE REFLECTED IN YOUR BONUS
      1. A statement from a manager indicating that an employee's year-end bonus will be positively influenced by their high performance on an individual project at another point in the fiscal year…the corporate equivalent of a dangling carrot.

  • http://www.thisisaaronslife.com Aaron Irizarry

    holy geeze that whiteboard one is spot on for the company I work at. I also hear the terms solution, rigorous thrown around pretty loosely.

  • Lance Cookson

    Was leverage on the calendar? That word makes me want to quote Inigo Montoya every time I hear it used.

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog Whitney Hess

      I did a little research for you and though it wasn't in my 2008 calendar, it *is* in the 2009 one! (Spoiler alert!)

      <h3>LEVERAGE</h3>
      1. To hype the strengths of an organization, plan, or business partnership. 2. To fool people into thinking what’s being offered is better, or more desirable, than it really is. Anything, particularly intangibles, can be leveraged: talent, resources, global networks, relationships, brands, or brand recognition. It’s a word spoken far too frequently and, at best, only vaguely understood by all who deliver and hear it.
      <h4>Saturday, July 18, 2009</h4>

  • http://daveferrick.com daveferrick

    It's a bit OT but I'm consistently amazed by the attention a single slide of a presentation can garner. You could show a slide with the text “Some foxes are red” in a large black font with a white background for 20 minutes and more than half of the meeting attendees will start at it for the entire duration.

    Can we come up with a term for that? PowerPointosis?

  • http://www.mindspring.com/~dbholzel/1001.html David

    I've been trying to figure out what “solutions” are supposed to be. ;)

  • Dave Menges

    Scalable
    The version that we sell is so anemic and wimpy that you will gladly pay anything to get an upgrade.

  • http://caitlingannon.com Caitlin

    How about evangelize? I feel like I need to make a disclaimer every time someone asks me to evangelize something. What's wrong with just showing it around? :-)

  • http://N/A C. Finnegan

    I’ve always found the simple phrase “human resources” to be particularly grating. What are resources? They are available supplies to be drawn upon when needed. Inanimate stuff. Wood, iron, coal, uranium, copper, oil, salt, sulfur, water–these are examples of natural resources. In the corporate world, resources are business function supplies: Machinery, paper, equipment, fuel, computers, calculators, charts, wiring, etc. More inanimate items. Now, the companies come along with the term “human resources”. Isn’t that cute? Instead of paper clips, they’re people! I don’t care for the idea of being thought of as a “human resource”. I’m not some zinc deposit in the Dakotas. I’m a human being. “Human resource” strikes me as the kind of term the corporate world dreamed up to forget that you’re a person. They don’t care if your mother has pancreatic cancer, or if your back pain is getting worse. You’re a cartridge. If you burn out, they throw you in the trash and get a new cartridge to take your place. That’s what you do with machinery these days. You replace it when it burns out. Using the term “human resources” merely congratulates a company for distancing itself from the needs of its employees. And that’s normally the function of the “human resources” department–to tell you where the boundaries are. There’s so much that companies won’t do for their employees anymore, they have to have a team of flunkies to keep track of it all. That’s your “human resources” department. If you have any further questions, feel free to speak to any of the company’s human resource directors. They’re here to help!

  • Jim H

    it is what it is: empty statement used when there is nothing to say about something, or a situation is so screwed up that it’s not worth making an effort to fix it; a phrase masquerading as being philosophically comforting while actually confirming that the situation is too painful to deal with.

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