What's your problem?

My colleague's jargon is really annoying...

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: I work with someone who uses so much business jargon that he's almost unintelligible. He's forever onionising, strategising or monetising. It's irritating the hell out of me. I've gently taken the Michael but to little avail. What do you suggest I do?

A: The first thing you need to understand is why he's so addicted to all this incomprehensible stuff and I bet you it's this. He is simply showing off.

Idiotically, he's chosen to believe that his managers and beyond will be so deeply impressed by his grasp of business vocabulary that they'll mark him down for an even bigger bonus and immediate promotion. If that's the case, then teasing him about his use of jargon won't have the slightest effect: he'll simply think you're envious. Instead, you need to rattle him about his underlying strategy.

Ask him if he's picked up on the new management trend - the fashion for Plain English. (If you need supporting evidence for this claim, just Google 'plain business English' and you'll find plenty.) Tell him that today's most successful businesses - and today's most successful business leaders - insist on brevity, clarity, simplicity, lucidity and transparency in all their communications, spoken and written.

Today, the use of impenetrable business jargon marks an executive out as a second-rater, doomed to subordinate roles in this welcome new world of the plain and the simple. (Don't worry too much if this isn't altogether true: it should be.) Even if he only half believes all this, it should certainly make him stop and think - and cut out a lot of his onionising. Besides, you should quite enjoy the indoctrination process, knowing you're on the side of the angels.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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