A few months ago I wrote a post called Heteroskedasticity, which was my initial effort at deconstructing business speak for those unfamiliar with this manner of communication. This post is my second along these same lines and given how well I am able to entertain myself writing about this topic, I suspect this will become a recurring theme. In fact, if I may be so bold, think of this as a corporate mentoring series in which I seek to pass on to you the keys to success. (Disclaimer: since I am not actually successful, you should probably seek a second opinion before following any of my advice.)
To prevail in today’s corporate jungle, it helps if you use ridiculous and pretentious words to make yourself sound important. You will know that you have made it to the top when others at your organization start using the absurd words and phrases you made up.
The following are some popular terms used at my company. Note that if you use these anywhere outside of Corporate America, people will look at you in amazement. Don’t mistake this for admiration, however, as they are most likely thinking you are a pompous idiot.
Holistic: the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. “I take a holistic approach” is the correct answer to any question. Work this phrase into your performance review as many times as possible. However, a word of caution: while companies would like you to believe that your compensation is holistic, it’s not.
Stretch Goal: a goal that you can only achieve if you leave your family and move into your office. Beware that achieving a stretch goal will not result in a higher bonus. This is because senior management has been ordered to cut millions from the budget and human capital is, of course, the greatest expense.
Human Capital: employees. Like other physical capital (computers, photocopiers, cell phones etc.), we break down and depreciate over time, especially after having kids.
Actionable: do-able. Get out of being assigned stretch goals by convincing everyone around you that getting a tent set up in your office is not actionable. After all, the facilities department can’t even manage to put a lock on your door…or disinfect the coffee pots for that matter.
Communicate Upstream: this has nothing to do with talking to salmon on their way up the river to spawn. Instead, this means sharing information with senior management and hoping it doesn’t get you fired.
F/U: shorthand for “follow up.” Don’t use this shorthand with any corporate newbies or you might find yourself in a conversation with Human Resources.
Give Someone the 30,000 Foot View: give the summary of the issue/situation/plan. If you can make the 30,000 foot view holistic you will likely be promoted.
Granular: excruciating detail. If at any point you decide to get granular in explaining the above-mentioned issue/situation/plan, do not be surprised if your co-workers try to poison you afterwards. Definitely do not do this with senior management when communicating upstream.
Face Time: not to be confused with using the iPhone FaceTime app. Instead, in the business world this means actually putting your cell phone down and getting out of your chair to go meet with someone in person. Get as much face time with your boss as possible, so he/she doesn’t forget you exist at bonus time.
Communicate Downstream: explaining to the people that work for you that they have to work late, because someone upstream is concerned about the information you shared with him/her during face time.
Heavy Lifting: the hard work. Pawn this off on the downstream people to make your life easier.
Pushback: hostility to an idea or action.
Be Mindful: be aware. Make sure you are mindful of possible pushback when you pawn off the heavy lifting on your team so you can go on vacation right before an important deadline.