The Stupid Things You Say At Work

Business jargon.  The lingo of labor for office-desk inhabitants throughout America. Do you find yourself vomiting these phrases in emails and telephone calls? If so give yourself a hearty handshake for using a lot of words to say nothing at all:

'Let's look at this from 30,000 feet': Don't you always get confused when people say that? Are they really saying they don't care about the details of whatever the discussion you're about to have is regarding? Maybe they're saying they actually think the best way to have this ensuing discussion would be on JetBlue instead of on Skype.  In that case, awesome! First-class or economy?

'Keep me in the loop': I'm sure you've been told this before by someone that perceives themselves to be too important to do the work, but not to hear about it.  So you do your job, go home and celebrate the day of keeping people trapped in loops.  Mr and Mrs. Workaholic on the other hand spend their evenings nestled with their favorite backlit device untangling all of the loops they've self-imposed on themselves.

'This is really disruptive': Ah yes, the double-edged sword of the business dictionary.  I'm sorry, but I can't translate this one's true meaning.  I guess we need a little context here.  If I were to say this to a 7-year-old, or Adam Sandler, I'm pretty sure it would be in response to them vacuuming their socks or chasing invisible penguins.  I'm not sure what the marketing equivalent of sock vacuuming is, but I know marketing people say something is disruptive when something good happens.  That kind of makes sense -- only a marketing person would say 'this is really disruptive!' instead of simply saying 'this is good!'

'Seamless integration': This is probably something you've heard from your IT/SNAFU department. It's something we're told to keep us calm when something is about to change.  Or, maybe it's a way of describing how your wrinkle-free shirt matches with your pants.

'Is that in scope?': This is a favorite of project managers everywhere.  This one I can translate for you.  Do you remember when you were a kid and your mom told you to clean your room? And then you responded with 'aw man, do I have to?' Well, 'Is that in scope?' is the professional equivalent.  When the PMP ninja asks 'is that in scope?' That's their way of asking a customer or their staff if they really have to do what's just been asked of them.  One thing's for sure, the customer wants to beat the project management ninja/guru/wizard whenever they say that line.  Cheer up though, at least that beat-down will happen on time and with a GANTT chart.

'Let that marinate for a minute': The only thing that needs to be marinated is tandoori chicken.  Do we really need to cook our ideas, buzzwords and other things we talk about in meetings? It's bad enough that meetings run into lunch time and our LinkedIn profile creeping as it is.

'Give me a ballpark': There's not much the world can agree on these days... except that the only person who is entitled to a fake ballpark is Kevin Costner.  The guy, yes I used that term for a reason because only a man would be looking for a free ballpark in a conference call about the cost for new stationary, really just needs an estimate about something.  I don't know why, but for whatever reason he just can't ask for one.  He usually doesn't need a 'nice round figure' (he probably already has one of those) or even a 'rough idea' (he only wants good ones).  Just a baseball diamond that he can, you know, 'touch base' on.

'Just reaching out': Three words either spoken into your voicemail or emailed to you by someone you're deliberately ignoring.  What exactly is the 'reacher's' intent here? Are they assuming that the 'reachee' is really excited that they are being reached for? Can we all just agree that the only one allowed to do any sort of reaching/stretch moves is Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic? I also have an idea about why when someone reaches out they never get a response.  It's usually because the reacher is looking for something from the reachee... maybe they're reaching for their pocket to spend some money on something or reaching into their time and asking them to do something they obviously don't want to do.  Which brings me to our next favorite quote.

'I don't have time': Yes you do! Unless you die, or have 'death' written as a to-do in your Basecamp tasks for the day then you absolutely have time.  If calculation serves me correct, which it may not (I did watch a baseball game yesterday), I believe you have...24 hours! And, if death is deferred at least another day you may even find yourself with 48 hours.  The phrase is merely a bold-faced lie.  Why don't we just do everyone a favor and say what you really mean,which is "I'd rather do anything else I have planned or, even the things I don't have planned, than do whatever you've just asked me to do."

'We're bootstrapping': This is a favorite in the valley.  I mean Silicon Valley, but really this term should be tombstoned by The Undertaker in Death Valley.  Clearly phrased by a millennial who, instead of taking a handout from an investor, has decided to do some business venture on their own.  With *gasp* their own money or time.  Could we have not come up with a better term? Everyone knows the only time you strap on boots are if they're Velcro. Which, incidentally, may remind the Silicon Valley superstar of a simpler time, and maybe even the only time, they ever previously did something on their own.  The delightful part is that bootstrapping is a verb.  So yes I look forward to the day when the Silicon Valley exec has a toddler and 'bootstraps' their trip to the bathroom.  Alas, it may be better long-term to fire the bootstrapper, or at least trade them for a shoelacer...or the more efficient sandal slider.

Kidding aside, poor business communication is real problem.  Costing billions. Every time we tell someone to 'get something on the calendar' to 'discuss entrepreneurial synergies' it costs money and takes away from getting things done. To the tune of billions of dollars. Yes, in case you're wondering that means theoretically if we just communicated better we'd have enough money to buy everyone in the world at least five items off the dollar menu at McDonalds.

How's that for a 'game changer?'