Why corporate jargon is such a big switch-off
What language do you speak? We don’t mean English, German or Mandarin. We mean do you “speak human” or “corporate lingo”? Alas, the latter is rife - in the last fortnight alone, we believe communication about the junior doctors' dispute and the Syrian refugee crisis has been hampered by a failure to speak in everyday language.
This shows that even high-profile speakers, who are used to talking in public, aren't necessarily aware they’re doing it, nor of the damage it causes.
In fact, we’re prepared to argue that one of the unspoken reasons why the junior doctors’ dispute has dragged on for so long, is because there has been a real failure to make the pro-doctors’ case in the media.
Alas, it’s not just the medics - all sectors of industry and society seem to suffer from this malaise, from global industrial firms to local councils.
Let’s give an example:
A senior figure in a leading charity, which is helping refugees in the Syrian crisis, was recently interviewed on national radio. He said their work was proving difficult because of "increased constraints around humanitarian access".
After some head-scratching, during which I was not listening to the next bit of his interview, I took this comment to mean it was more difficult to get aid trucks in to feed people and treat anyone who was unwell.
If that’s a fair translation, why on earth didn’t he say so?
Other examples we've heard lately include:
When “corporate lingo” is used in media interviews, it’s damaging for several reasons:
- it puts distance between you and the audience
- it impedes their ability to understand what you’re saying
- it can even make you look arrogant
- it’s the quickest way to ensure listeners/viewers switch off, or worse, switch over
- plus, it's just plain DULL!
We trained some very senior doctors recently, who initially defended their jargon-laden language by saying that’s what their NHS Trust bosses would expect them to say. Very quickly these doctors realised this is not a good approach.
Who would want the person fixing their car to say there was “a catastrophic malfunction of the drivetrain,” when they could say, “there’s a real problem with the gearbox”? So similarly, who wants a healthcare professional to talk about “ensuring there’s an integrated care pathway”, when they mean they’re making sure that “when you leave hospital, a community nurse will call on you at home”?
The prevalence of corporate lingo is reaching epidemic proportions. Fortunately, we have the antidote: tailored, practical communications training.
An organisation that “speaks human,” instead of spouting corporate lingo, will be perceived as more human.
We can’t make it clearer than that.