Power words – I

A power breakfast is a meeting of influential people to conduct business while eating breakfast. It is made to sound something like an elite class thing. The dhobi and watchman of my building do that everyday…eat breakfast together and conduct business. They are influential as they carry the neighborhood gossip and can pull a few strings to get things done. A power tie is one that has a striking colour, pattern and style that makes the wearer stand out or grab eyeballs. Then there is this power nap thing that is a short sleep meant to kill drowsiness. Phrases that are prefixed with the word power amuse me. The word adds weight to anything. Creates a sense of importance. In a sense, they render anything else as mediocre.

n the past few days, I was making a mental note of some corporate jargon being thrown around at my workplace. Words and phrases I would term as ‘power words’. These are utterances that separate you from the usual chaff.  Words that imply your command and control over matters and words that qualify you as a ‘power executive’.  Everyone seem to be catching up with these. I am no exception although I do not like to ‘jargonate’ everything . Presented here is the jargon of my workplace. They are in no specific order. Add yours to the list:

ASAP: I find it funny when they actually pronounce it like a word (A-sap). But it sounds more friendly, trendy and slick than ‘as early as possible’. Only bosses use this to magnify their own sense of importance (including me) over their subordinates, ” Need this asap. Just put everything else on hold”

Buy-In: A trendy sexy phrase I would say. A single word to define agreement, participation, commitment or approval. Buy in means your commitment to the success of something whose failure means your backside is as much on the line.

Basically: Now, basically everybody uses this prop word because someone before them used it and it caught on. It is a disease that germinated in those Tier 2 and 3 B schools where everybody tackled the common problem of communication skills. The word is supposedly used to introduce a simplified explanation containing only the most essential point. In real life, it is hardly used that way. It is mostly a meaningless filler to buy time to think up more things to say. Mostly used by people who have no clue about making an effective start to a sentence. They are dogged by self doubt and insecurity.  This is not typical corporate jargon but a lot of people use it to start a sentence more so because it just clung on to them. Best avoided!

“Sort of…”:   We all love to hear ourselves sound American without having the slightest idea that we are nowhere near being American with phrases like “sort of”. Pronounced as “sod off”, it conveys a picture with no detail and is a useful phrase to use when you are not sure about something and yet wish to reply to a query.

Recall value: No idea why are they using this ad world phrase but sounds uber when used, especially with a sophisticated gesticulation of the hand to aid the visualization.

Sign off:  Approval sounds too pubic sector I guess but sign off also means that the boss or senior honcho blesses your initiative and it is your baby now. Implementation teams use it a lot (probably to highlight their own exclusivity from the rank and file structures that operations teams bear)

Put together:   Not exactly a corporate phrase but when your boss calls you at night and asks you to “put together a few slides ASAP” on something he wants to present in the morning, you cannot escape the feeling of being fobbed off. A more sophsiticated phrase for the word “make”. Also conveys a boss’ apparent lack of idea on how something can be done and so pushes it down to someone to figure it out.

Solutioning: Ah yes…effective corporate communication depends on verbing the noun.  Heard my boss use this the other day. Don’t know if the other person was impressed but I was. It is uber cool to pull out fresh verbed nouns to power push an otherwise mundane thing. So testing becomes solutioning.

Disconnect: It works the other way too. Noun the verb. I first heard this word in 2004 just a few days after I joined this company. It was a kind of a power enclave one afternoon led by the hyper enthusiastic CEO and his team of young managers. The enclave was meant to “tackle operational roadblocks and generate fresh ideas”. I was the new one in and hence invited to witness the ‘method to the madness’ and ingrain the ‘work culture’. There was this super cool Tamil ‘enthu cutlet’ with a super cool American accent who spoke all things cool. I could not make a dick out of what he spoke all afternoon but picked up this neat little word that means lack of coordination. “Disconnect between implementation and operations can be addressed with a templated solution….” Ho hum!

Process Mapping: A phrase for non technical people to sound impressive and knowledgeable about processes. Again implementation teams use this to display their apparent control over elements. In reality, it is a silly exercise of using elaborate icons and diagrams to depict a process on a powerpoint slide, something a reasonably good engineer just creates in his mind.

Documentation: It used to be ‘paperwork’ before. But new word covers everything that paperwork covers and also anything that gives people like me an opportunity to show our usefeulness by wasting time typing out things on MS Word and converting it into a pdf document.

Reports: Again a trendy, efficient word. No I am not talking about meaningless MIS. That is not trendy. But reports here mean people reporting to you. “How many direct reports do you have” would mean how many people are directly reporting to you. As I stated earlier, it is equally trendy to noun the verb.

Key Learnings/takeways:  From womb to tomb, man is always learning. Any exercise always has key learnings. Even boring workshops on people management or knowledge management. Every failure has a lesson and is a learning. Also if anyone with a white skin says anything and as long as he or she is on the customer side, there is always a key learning or we would create some and impress the hell out of them whites by bulleting the key learnings. Takeaways is more trendy. Useful stuff from a generally boring event, speech or workshop. ‘Basically’, nobody cares but we always close events by bulleting key learnings from it to acklnowledge the usefulness of the event.

I guess these will do for Session 1. More to come

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1 comment so far

  1. Sriram on

    Well, much of the business speak is kinda alien to me, but I can understand what you said about the basically, and you-know. I HATE people who keep saying the latter phrase; it almost sounds like they are teaching kids.. and I’ve never hesistated to show my disgust towards anyone who has spoken like that to me 😀


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