It is a truism that truth works better than deception, as is the fact that honesty is more highly valued than fakery. So why do so many of us rely on the verbal equivalent of these two sins, when talking or writing or delivering sometimes really quite high-profile and important presentations?
Why? Unfortunately, many of us have fallen into the habit of verbal mimicry and laziness that is characterized by the mindless regurgitation and over-use of verbal tics, management gibberish and meaningless faddisms of phrasing.
The worst offender (or equal worst, tied with the buzzword bonanza I hate) is the EUPHEMISM.
So let’s tear the euphemism edifice down!
SIDE NOTE: The web defines euphemism as…
“…a generally innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant. Some euphemisms are intended to amuse, while others use bland, inoffensive, and often misleading terms for things the user wishes to dissimulate or downplay.”
So - is the euphemism man’s convenient replacement for an unpleasant truth?
Or another over-used verbal crutch, misused, abused and over-used the world over by mediocre mealy-mouthed management men who cannot face the facts nor handle the audience reaction / fall-out following receipt of their bad news?
As it nears the close of 2013, and as I am feeling a tad mischievous, I thought I would have a look at some of the euphemisms we all know and love to hate. And give my own - yes, totally my own - interpretations of what the colorful words are really trying to tell you, and yes, my tongue is in my cheek with some of these.
20 Most Overused Euphemisms (And What They Really Mean)
1. We need you to hit the ground running… (We want you to start work tomorrow, and there will be no training, induction period or assistance. You’re on your own, pal.)
2. To be perfectly frank… (I’m going to be rude and disrespectful now)
3. With the greatest of respect… (You’re not going to like what I am about to say…)
4. Yours is a hot desk. (You don’t have a desk. What? You want a desk?)
5. We make decisions as a team here; I am your manager, but I respect and value your views. (I don’t. Your views are meaningless to me.)
6. We’ve taken a long hard look at our salaries and cost base. (Salaries frozen again.)
7. You’re hired; but you aren’t the person we thought we’d hire… (We have no idea why we hired you, but if it doesn’t work it’s because you’re not what we want and that’s your problem.)
8. This isn’t about you… (It is.)
9. We’re right-sizing. (We’re making more redundancies.)
10. This what agile working is all about. (We don’t know what agile working is. But you can work at home sometimes.)
11. We’re investing in our teams. (Have a laptop.)
12. Be brave enough to take decisions. (And I will make sure people know it was you who screwed up.)
13. I like to be collegiate in my decision making. (Yeah, right. You WILL do what I say in the end.)
14. I’m not yet sure how to best use your skills… (You have better skills than me, so I am going to make you do things you are no good at.)
15. What is your opinion? (I don’t need your opinion. When I do, it will be the same as mine, won’t it?)
16. Family and work life balance is important to us here… (But just don’t let family upset the balance of your work, please.)
17. We’re embracing sustainability. (We have placed recycling bins in the break room.)
18. We’ve invested heavily in green technology. (We have bought a shredder.)
19. As a manager, I welcome challenge. (But not from you, pond life.)
20. Look, no one has a better sense of humor than me. (Are you trying to be funny? I don’t get it.)
What’s Your Takeaway?
In management and leadership, as in life, it is better to be honest and transparent in your communications, especially with those from whom you ask for loyalty, effort, perseverance, dedication and commitment.
Sugar-coating unpleasant truths, or the conscious dissembling of your own rather unattractive managerial or people-management weaknesses by using buzzwords and ‘Management for Dummies’ style sound bites reveals not a command of the latest in business techniques and skills, but your own vulnerable soft, white management underbelly.
So what do you think of my list? Anything you would like to add?
About the Author: Jonathan Henley is an experienced, creative, committed and inspirational B2B marketing and communications professional who is always interested in new and challenging opportunities. Keep up with him on Google Plus.