Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Running it up the flagpole

It seems no matter where I work, I run into people who love Industry Speak. Every industry has 'em, but every industry is different.

In restaurants, you have code names for ingredients, you yell "behind" when you're crossing someone in the kitchen, you do "side work" after your shift and "prep" before your shift. It's like an internal secret language and - secretly - I kind of dig it. It's not intended to convey any sense of superior knowledge or advanced intellect. It's more like belonging to a fraternal order of food slingers.

In corporations, it's very very different. Everyone who has been in an office job knows the kinds of people I'm talking about. The types who don't talk about ideas, they "socialize" them. Who don't do good work, they "deliver added-value." And - my favorite - people who take things "offline."

I find that the people who engage in this kind of lingo are usually doing so to meet a few critical objectives. (har!) One is to make themselves feel important. The other is to try and develop a sense of the camaraderie that develops in other industries. But the actual result is usually to alienate themselves and open themselves to ridicule. Furthermore, I've found that the more insecure people get in their position (either they're unqualified to do their job, things in the company are unstable or they just weren't hugged as a kid), the more the Corporate Speak manifests its ugly head.

Napolean was one of these lingoists. Before leaving my last gig, I wrote this mission statement for him:
We must be proactive in controlling our own destiny to convey the ubiquitous paradigm for the construct of creating awareness, credibility and preference for our world-class Sexy Claims.

Now, here at AgencyJob, we've found another one. This gal is an EA or some basic equivalent of that. And, boy, does she love her lingo. I haven't been able to nail down her exact quirks of phrase, yet, but my buddy put this award-deserving email together to convey the overall emotion of the office:

First off, I want to thank you for the great job you’re doing staying focused on executing our priorities. And I want to assure you that we’re thoughtfully evaluating a wide range of potential strategic alternatives in what is a complex and evolving landscape. And we’ve hired top advisors to assist through the process. What’s become clear in the past few days is how much people care about this company. We have a lot to be excited about and there’s more good news to come. As we look to build on the progress we’ve been making, I want to convey how essential you are to our success. As this process moves forward, we’re going to keep you informed. Your hard work and strong commitment are more important now than ever before.

So, if you think it's bad enough that I have to live in survival mode, not knowing when the axe is going to fall, think again. Because I have to live in a survival mode where they don't even speak English.

Some days I really just want to go back to slinging beans and rice....