Corporate Flunkies Speak In Tongues

Corporate flunkies speak in tongues

By Lisa Earle McLeod

What’s the difference between vision and mission, and does anybody even care?

I’m all for getting everybody pointing in the right direction, but why do companies always seem to think that a bunch of fancy buzzwords etched into a bronze plaque will impress their customers and motivate their employees to reach new heights of greater productivity?

I don’t know about you, but the words “bandwidth, deliverables, and value proposition” don’t exactly inspire me to stay past 5 p.m.

I once worked with a paper company where the chief chimp in charge was fond of issuing proclamations like: “It’s all about synergizing our core competencies into a differentiated value model for our stakeholders.”

Yeah, right. We sold toilet paper.

However, after years of trying to decipher stupid, vague, and absolutely meaningless management mumbo jumbo, the rank and file are fighting back.

Well, actually they’re not fighting back, but they have found a way to ease their suffering by entertaining themselves at management’s expense.

There’s a secret game going around the hallowed halls of corporate America. It’s called BS Bingo and it’s probably being played at a meeting near you.   

The rules are simple. Players get points every time someone utters an overused corporate cliche. You can print actual Bingo cards off the Internet at www.bull**** (you fill in the blank). Instead of  N-31 or O-67, the squares are labeled with buzzwords like “content management” and “vertical market.”

You can also download a version for your Palm at

Either way, one round of drilling down to the value-added, intellectual property derived from free enterprise and accessible via an electronic delivery system will insure that the aggregate attendees at your next off-site are no longer BORED OUT OF THEIR BLOODY MINDS.

My husband, a former BS Bingo champ, once got five across before the head honcho even finished his first slide. The official rules require you to stand up and shout “bull****” when you get a Bingo.

But my husband and his fellow corporate climbers decided that they wanted to keep their jobs. So they opted for silently texting each other across the conference table.

I understand why people like buzzwords. They’re cool and they make the boss sound like he might have an original idea. But all that jargon is often just a cover for the fact that nobody knows what the heck they’re doing.

Throw around words like ROI and market window and you never have to actually explain yourself, because people are too embarrassed to admit that you lost them three strategic acquisitions ago.

And when you’re a consultant, if you start using plain language, companies will start wondering why they hired you. After all, they’ve already got plenty of their own employees telling them they need to make better stuff; they hired you to identify the fast track to greater brand equity.

Once you get used to speaking in corporate tongues, it’s sometimes a hard habit to break.

Brian Fugere, a principal in Deloitte Consulting, refers to himself as a “recovering jargonaholic.” Jargon-clean for the last two years, Fugere recently wrote “Why Business People Speak Like Idiots” (Simon & Schuster, $22) with fellow “bullfighters” Chelsea Hardaway and John Warshawsky.

The authors, whose Web site is, insightfully illustrate why business speak never captures people’s imagination or enthusiasm. All most employees and customers want, they say, is for someone to simply tell them the truth.

So let’s make a pact. Let’s leverage our human capital and generate a paradigm shift. I’ve done an extensive benefit analysis and if we can effectively eliminate all non mission-critical verbiage from our playbook, it’s a win-win for the entire global enterprise.

The on-boarding process starts Monday morning, don’t be late.

Copyright © 2006 by Lisa Earle McLeod. All Rights reserved.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Forget Perfect: Finding Joy, Meaning, and Satisfaction in the Life You’ve Already Got and the YOU You Already Are.” She has been seen on “Good Morning America” and featured in Lifetime, Glamour and The New York Times. Contact her at

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