I came across a pretty hilarious article on Forbes when brainstorming ideas for my column this morning. It's about business jargon and how useless (and somewhat stupid) most of it is.
Now, I'm the first to be skeptical of buying into culture, jargon being a defining component of culture, so I have always been the _last_ to use an organization's jargon when I've been a part of it, but even I find that some of the assertions the author makes are a little absurd. You can find the article here.
Now I'm going to reach out to all of you, exceed expectations in writing this article, and shoot the wind about how I feel about jargon. Was that good enough?
Prior to my foray into finance, I worked in the healthcare industry as a quasi-software developer. The company I worked with had a very heavy-handed culture, and jargon was prevalent. Now, I never wanted to work as a software developer, but as a recent graduate, I took what I could get. This all made me even more skeptical when all of the sudden the only words I heard were "best practice", "workflow", and "best of breed".
When I quit that job to pursue finance, I vowed to never work at an organization that was full of jargon. I figured, "hey, bankers are smart folks that don't have time to waste on petty crap like jargon, what a waste of time". My naivety has since been curbed.
The funniest thing about jargon to me is the degree to which _no one_ likes it but everyone buys into it. For instance, I am not a huge fan of the phrase "reach out"...it just sounds bizarre to me. I, like the author of the Forbes article, would much rather say "get in contact with", "contact", "get in touch with", etc. Any sexual connotations aside, reach out is simply a strange way to say that you are talking, or planning on talking, to someone. However, despite disliking the phrase "reach out", I find myself using it all the time -- during information interviews, when talking to normal people, when giving friends advice about networking, and even in other situations. Honestly, I don't think anyone really _likes_ phrases like reach out...they do make you sound like a bit of a tooligan. But that doesn't matter -- spend a little bit of time in the business world and you'll quickly understand that everyone both uses business jargon and expects the people around them to use it as well.
Jargon has a bit of a cult of personality, despite being an inanimate object. Maybe because I was interested in finance (and wasn't interested in software), I found it easier to stomach the fact that suddenly I was using phrases like "reach out", "execute", "give 110%", among others.
I remember one time I got into contact (note, I did not say "reached out" :) ) with someone at a local startup that I was interested in learning more about. Their PR person was about my age - 23 - and a recent college graduate. In her e-mail response to me, she thanked me two or three times for "reaching out", and upon meeting her, I was interested to learn that she did not have a business degree and didn't see herself in a business role whatsoever after graduation. She was clearly not your prototypical business person, but she had, in a short period of time, totally bought into the jargon associated with business professions.
It was one of those weird situations where we were talking to one another, using business jargon, and we _both_ know that it was bullshit (and even smiled a few times because of how ridiculous we sounded). But at the end of the day, we had both made it "somewhere", and using jargon was totally fine. It's a weird dilemma, because all it takes is one person who uses jargon genuinely and believes it's awesome to cause everyone else to use it, most likely disingenuously.
What do you guys think about jargon? Absurd, a necessary evil...perhaps an unnecessary evil? And what do you make of some of the jargon the Forbes article brings to light...a lot of these words I didn't even realize were "business jargon" per se.
Thanks for reading.