British phone box
Feb 01, 2009
Amanda O'Donovan

Let’s Talk Some Sense

Sometimes, I think we’re in danger of drowning in our own babble. At work we surround ourselves with a language of protective terms that mean very little to an outsider. It’s a great way to avoid saying what we mean, or knowing what we’re talking about. Many of us are so good at it that we’ve skilfully managed to confuse our suppliers, competitors, clients, prospects and even our colleagues.

As a freelancer, I’ve worked with many different organizations. Each one has its own corporate language -spoken with great pride and many acronyms. It’s very hard not to get sucked into this vortex of business babble, because deep down we all want to wear the badge that shouts, “I belong here.”

Most of us wouldn’t dream of using techno terms at home with our loved ones, so why do we park our personalities at the office door on a Monday morning? Why do we insist on talking about optics, low-hanging fruit, burn rates, pushback, face time and helicopter views?

Imagine how ridiculous it would sound if we started using business jargon in our private lives:

“Hey Dad, can we talk about my allowance? It’s been the same for so long – and I can’t afford to buy the stuff I need.”

“Son, you may need to get your burn rate under control. You probably need more granularity in your expenses going forward.”


“I’d like to schedule a town hall this evening. We need to bring your sisters to the table on this, because any change in your reward package is likely to affect our entire family unit.”


“Meanwhile, I’ll need to run this up the flagpole and see if Mom salutes.”

“So, does that mean you’ll talk to her?”

“Yes, I’ll book some face time, but don’t drive beyond the headlights on this one. We may get pushback.”

“Is there anything I can do to help persuade her?”

“You’ll need to get your ducks in a row. Bucketize your ideas -a helicopter view will do – and then bottom line it with some bullet points. Once you’re done, I can take a look at the treeware and give it a legal scrub before you present it to the C-level.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

“You’re welcome, Son. The optics are looking good. I’m hoping to get you somewhere north of fifty. We’ll circle back this evening. Let’s hope the juice is worth the squeeze.”


Now, I realize that I may have exaggerated the content of this conversation to push home a point, but most of you reading this will have used one or more of these expressions in the past week. You’re guilty. I’m guilty. Can we change our business behaviour? Yes, we can!

For more ridiculous business jargon, and for a translation of some of the terms used in this post, take a look at It’s well worth the detour.


Amanda O’Donovan is a Toronto-based corporate communicator. You can contact her at 416 456 3859 or