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The 12 Most Dangerous Words in Business

Don't worry about the jargon: at least we all recognise it when we hear it. The really nasty language in business are normal words with abnormal meanings. Twelve which should get any alert manager's bullsh*t detector working overtime include:

  1. Just This is used to make a huge request or error seem trivial as in: "Could you just do this (500 page) document by Monday?", a request best made late on a Friday afternoon.
  2. But Remember, whatever is said before "but" is b*****ks, as in, "That was a great presentation, but--", or "I would like to help, but--"
  3. From Much loved by advertisers, as in "Fly to Rome from £10" excluding £100 of taxes and other "optional" extras for a flight leaving at 4am, going to an airport about 100kn away from Rome and the ticket has to be booked one year in advance.
  4. Might (and any other conditional verb)
    Might is used to achieve two things: first it sets up a negotiating position as in, "I might be able to do that if--" Second, it lays the ground work for excusing failure later on: "I would have done it, if only--."
  5. Only Closely related to "Just", it is an attempt to make a big request or problem seem small. "It was only a small error--.we only dropped one nuclear bomb over London--"
  6. Important (and urgent) Used to puff up any presentation: "This important new product/initiative--". Important to who? And why? Maybe it is important to the speaker, but why is it to me?
  7. Strategic Important, with bells on. See Strategic Human Capital division, formerly known as the Personnel Department. Alternatively used to justfiy something which has no financial justification at all: "This strategic IT investment.....(which costs £100 million and has no identifiable payback at all) is essential to the survival of the business"
  8. Rightsize, downsize, best shore, offshore, outsource, optimise, redeploy, downshift, re-engineer How many ways are there of avoiding saying straight up: we are going to lay off staff?
  9. Thank you Normally "Thank you" is good, except when used by automated voices at call centres saying, "Thank you for calling, we value your call...(and we have so much contempt for our customers that we can not be bothered to answer your call promptly, so we will put you on hold until you give up and try to use our impenetrable and useless online help instead)."
  10. Interesting Fear this word. When your lawyer uses it, you are doomed. When your doctor uses it, check your will is up to date. The recession is certainly interesting. A slightly less interesting time would be preferable.
  11. Opportunity Because the word "problem" has been banned in business speak, all problems have become opportunities. This means many opportunities are problems. There is a limit to how many opportunities I can solve. Interesting and strategic opportunities really scare me.
  12. Investment Investment was first hijacked by the British government to justify wild and uncontrolled public sector spending. Spending is bad, but investment is good, so they simply re-classified all their spending as "investment" in the health, education and future of the country. The businesses which followed the government's lead by going on a spending/investment splurge are now going bust: unlike the government, they can not print money or raise taxes.
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