Crimes Against Communication


We are almost there, 2018 is wrapping up and the small part of our brains that isn’t desperately trying to tick of Christmas / end of year lists is turning towards the possibilities of 2019.

It has been such a busy year, for almost all of us, which is why I can’t understand why we fill so much of our days with word that don’t make sense or deliberately make communication and understanding harder.

From ‘paradigm shift’ to ‘low hanging fruit’, to ‘drill down’ and ‘don’t boil the ocean’ (although I do have a weird, slightly cringe-worthy attraction to that last metaphor), the silly things we say at work sometimes make my brain hurt – it’s even worse when you hear those words coming out of your mouth.

Sure, a ‘just fire her’ message from former Chairman Justin Milne to former ABC CEO Michelle Guthrie probably wouldn’t have made Emma Alberici feel any better than the message to encourage her to ‘explore external career development opportunities’, but at least she wouldn’t have been rolling her at eyes that spectacularly awful piece of verbal flatulence.

If you want to use bad words, watch Deadpool (or Deadpool 2) and cut loose … maybe not at work though. Just don’t use meaningless, wasted words when you could so much more easily just say what you mean.

Do we really need to say things like: ‘think outside the box’ or is that just creative thinking? Do you want us to think about Schrodinger instead of his cat? Is this leading to the sound of one hand clapping? Is the philosophy session getting in the way of actually doing something?

This corporate double speak is everywhere, from General Motors ‘unallocating’ five manufacturing plants next year, to the ‘variable remuneration’ that is apparently not a sales bonus from the Banking Royal Commission. Almost trumping the list this year was Facebook’s take on alleged Russian interference in the US election, referred to as: ‘coordinated inauthentic behaviour’.

So, in honour of championing plain speaking at work, here are some words to wipe from your workplace vocabulary in 2019:


  • ‘Circle back’ … just, don’t.
  • Touch base or reach out – or you could just email, call or text
  • Thought leadership
  • Move the needle
  • Value add - we all know it means to charge more)
  • Organic growth – mould
  • Core competencies
  • Deep dive
  • Customer centric

But the one I could happily wave goodbye to in 2018, hopefully never to return, is the 80/20 Rule (or the Pareto Principal) that has become so ubiquitous in work conversations and meetings that it has pretty much lost all useful meaning.

The basic idea of the Pareto Principal is that most things are not evenly weighted, such as 80% of the world’s wealth owned by 20% of its people, or 80% of business results coming from 20% of the total effort. I had an uncle who liked to loudly tell anyone who was listening that no one really worked hard, because they were only really working on tasks for 2 hours a day … you won’t be surprised that he was in ‘management’.

It started in economics in Italy, shifted to management (that 80 per cent of your results come from 20 per cent of your efforts); was snapped up by marketing (as in: 80 per cent of your sales come from 20 per cent of your customers or sales staff); is beloved in manufacturing where it crosses the five Ms (Google it if you really want to know); and reached peak silliness in relationships, where the rule is applied to suggest that in a good relationship you get 80 per cent of what you want, and presumably the remaining 20 per cent is what we used to complain to friends about but now just put out memes on Facebook…

Happy end of year everybody, we’ll be back in 2019 where we will NOT be reaching out to do a series of deep dives into the thought leadership that is breaking down silos to deliver a paradigm shift for our city’s future prospects. We look forward to talking with you.

Feature Image Courtesy: Tract Consulting
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