Who touched base in my thought shower is a book by Steven Poole (who writes the on
Reading it, I was often reminded of theÂ Bill Lumbergh character in Office Space:
Only after working in very politicized organizations, I realized that there were people who constantly spoke like that. All day long. Saying things like:
This is an imagistic verbing â€“ “We’re going to sunset that project/service/version” â€“ that sounds more humane and poetic than “cancel” or “kill” or “stop supporting”. When faced with the choice between calling a spade a spade or using a cloying euphemism, you know which the bosses will choose. Happily, sunsetting also sounds less smelly than the venerable old mothballing.
To call something a “problem” is utterlyÂ verbotenÂ in the office: it’s boundÂ to a) scare the horses and b), even worse, focus responsibility on theÂ bosses. So let us instead deploy theÂ compassionate counselling-speak of “issues”. The critic (and manager) Robert Potts translates “There are some issues around X” as: “There is a problem so big that we are scared to even talk about it directly.”
Actually, I’m guilty on that one 😉
Poole also writes theÂ On WordsÂ series at The Guardian and is the author of Unspeak, a brilliant book on how words become weapons.
Doublespeak is not only the annoying source for some office humor. Using these words and not calling things by their name is a recipe for misunderstanding, uncertainty and fear. It’s the reason why some environments become toxic. Like Poole says, the only way to fight the effects of these words is to become aware of their use and try to investigate and contest their meaning.