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How To Speak Management

How To Speak Management

Management Jargon: the universal language of middle management. Here's a breakdown of leadership linguistics to help you create your own management-speak.

Step 1: Picture language

Rumour has it that managementese developed to alleviate the boredom of endless meetings. A popular way of doing this is to use pictoral phrases to say relatively simple things. It's a bit like making up a story. Just not quite as much fun.

Arrows to fire: It means "points to use in an argument", but the clever language makes people think they're in a Clint Eastwood movie. "If you don't have any more arrows to fire, I'd like to say something…"

Bag of snakes: A business situation with lots of foreseeable problems. This is a good one because it's tinged with Indiana Jones-style recklessness. "That's a real bag of snakes… I wouldn't pick it up."

"Run it up the flagpole": There's a military tone to this one: "I'm just going to run this up the flagpole and see who salutes", meaning to suggest an idea and see who likes it.

You might also consider:
Golden Goose (noun): A company's most valuable asset
Pig in a python (noun): a slow moving person or task
Birdtable (verb): to meet and discuss an issue before delegating - as in "let's birdtable this tomorrow morning".

Step 2: Derogatory terms

Apparently, part of the skill of being a great manager involves couching venemous insults in harmless management jargon. That way your befuddled victim can't complain about your use of abusive language.

Clocksucker: A clever, but not terribly subtle, way of describing an employee who does no work and wastes company money.

Stepford Worker: From the film Stepford Wives - an employee who follows the company line so closely as to become an unthinking clone. A derogatory term in many ways, but these individuals are often highly sought after in the corporate world.

You might also consider:
Mouse Potato (noun): someone who spends hour after hour wasting time on the internet
Office pretty (adjective): attractive only when compared to other (less attractive) colleagues.
Mucus Trooper (noun): someone who turns up for work with a cold, only to sneeze all over everyone else.

Step 3: Euphamysticisms

These are words or phrases that are used purely to make the speaker sound cleverer or more interesting than they are.

Two-comma: A number higher than a million. Because if it's got six zeroes it's got two commas. By referring to large sums of money in this way the speaker is demonstrating an affected nonchalance for astronomical figures. Which is clearly nonsense.

North of: A needlessly exotic sounding phrase meaning "more than" - as in "our profit this year was north of 16 mil." The speaker thinks it makes them sound like an exciting arctic explorer. It doesn't.

You might also consider:
Batting Average (n): the success rate of a product or process
Granular (adj): prematurely concerned with minute detail
Offline (adj): in private, as in "to discuss something offline"

Finally, try the following:
Turning nouns into verbs: for example To Table (verb) - to put something to one side
Creating long words when a short one already exists: Such as, Disambiguate (verb) - ironically, meaning "to clarify".
Using linguistic elements to create new words:
Proceduralize, for example, meaning to turn a common process into an official procedure

Now you've got the gist, try making up some jargon of your own. Use unlikely picture language, create meaningless euphamisms and think of some clever plays on popular phrases. The less people that understand it, the more important you'll think you are. It's a win-win situation.