I don't want to interface with you later on that.
Or have a dialogue about it.
Or, God help me, language about it.
We'll just talk, like people have done for 100,000-350,000 years prior to the advent of interfacing and will continue to do, even if the actual word talk is bludgeoned to death late one night at a corporate retreat. (Or, if you're 30 Rock's Jack Donaghy, a Six Sigma retreat to move forward.)
Office jargon isn't about clear communication. Like Pig Latin, it's often about preventing listeners from fully understanding, as in fully understanding that the speaker is saying othingnay ecialspay.
So foreign are the words and phrases I hear at office meetings (drill down, reaching out, circling back, repurposing, at the end of the day) from those that I hear at home, where I'm a mother (What? Can I use the car? Huh?) and wife (Why's the heat on?) that they comprise a second language: Worklish.
The Worklish dialect is especially jarring to the ears of the newly employed woman, who, in the spirit of compassion, should be issued a Worklish-to-English dictionary. She will be hearing for the first time words and phrases that cannot survive in the atmosphere outside an office.
This isn't my first linguistic rodeo. I entered the workforce when peak quality and raising the bar were popular. Later came the ratchet up and dial down era. Looking back, those phrases seem the Dick and Jane primers of office jargon. Today, we're boiling the ocean. Try working that into your next conversation with your best friend.
On the down side, Worklish tends to be annoyingly redundant. Is it necessary to say very unique or here today any more than it is to say young baby or difficult divorce?
But to its credit, Worklish is, on occasion, onto something. I'm pretty sure I rightsized my first marriage.
While we can't wipe out Worklish, we can embrace coping strategies. Here are six.
Here are a few things I've accomplished during meetings where I was lulled to near unconsciousness by windy jargoneers: decided on a bedspread color for my guest room; rearranged my co-parenting schedule; rearranged my living room furniture; decided to reclaim my maiden name. One spring, it took me two meetings to plan my summer flowers -- purple petunias with trailing vines for the patio containers and lobelia for the hanging baskets on the porch. They're standard flowers and it would seem like a one-meeting decision, but the lighting in my yard is complex. You get the idea: multitask.
As they slowly torture the English language, Jargoneers bore everyone but themselves. What can be said directly in one minute, they stretch over five. The agonized listener may think, "Get to the point!" but must remain mute until she's behind closed office doors with a like-minded co-worker. The public solution? Install a speaker's treadmill. Any person who wants to talk at a meeting must step onto the JargonJogger 3000 which has been programmed to accelerate indefinitely starting with his or her first word.
Infuse your next meeting with a little fun. Using pen and paper, create a BINGO board, then enter your workplace's hot jargon into the nine boxes. Photocopy and distribute before the meeting. Attendees cross off the phrases as they hear them. The first person to hear three phrases in a single column or row leaps up and screams, "WORKPLACE BINGO!" Prizes optional.
There's a contagion effect to Worklish, and even the most resolute will find themselves suggesting creative solutions and telling their stories. Consider setting a jar upon the meeting table. Whenever you catch yourself or a co-worker speaking Worklish, the offender must drop a quarter in the jar.
Through physical charades that include facial gestures, shifting posture and the occasional slight head nod accompanied by the mild-eye squint, you can go unnoticed at a meeting. When others start or stop taking notes, follow their lead in the interest of remaining camouflaged. (This presents the perfect opportunity to write your grocery list.)
Be the first to slam words into each other and repurpose nouns as verbs. Hopscotch ahead. Predatory puppy. Gosselin, Gosselined, Gosselining. Your word choice doesn't matter. Just say it like you mean it.
Ooops, I have to put a quarter in my jar. So I will sign off...
(I'm the best? You're the best? Best of luck? The best is yet to come? You're looking your best? Best Western? I'm trying my gosh darn best, here?)
Follow Carolyn Bucior on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Carolyn Bucior