Sounding like a charismatic preacher and using jargon and words such as “leverage” and “mission” might be popular in offices the world over, but could have a detrimental effect on manager-employee relationships, according to research from Nottingham University Business School.
Phrases such as, “contingent operating difficulty”- corporate babble for “cock-up”- are labeled “business bollock speak,” by Tony Watson, a professor of organization behavior at Nottingham University Business School and author of the study.
The main culprits of this corporate sin are HR staff and those in senior managerial roles.
“HR people can be naïve and underestimate the importance of the impact of language and this is especially true when it comes to creating an effective team vision,” says the professor, who has written a book about the subject based on his findings, titled ‘Organizing and Managing Work
An expert in this field, Professor Watson says that the rise of managers imitating “evangelical preachers” is difficult to trace but offers one explanation.
“My view is that it’s got to do with American domination of management thinking and the very important role in American culture of churches preaching,” says the professor. “It’s not surprising that we get that effect on people in management turning to the evangelical tradition. Similar to music, pop was derived from the Blues, which came out of evangelical churches.”
Other influences are well known management gurus like Tom Peters, adds the professor.
Professor Watson also says that managers who inflate their sentences with what he calls “pseudo-jargon” not only risk creating cynicism within the team but also reveal more personal issues.
“One of the arguments from the research shows that when managers start losing ‘it’ they turn more and more to this language [jargon],” warns the professor.
“It’s a lack of confidence in what they are doing or in themselves, which leads them to big up what they are saying.”
Confessing that he has uttered the odd “business bollock speak,” Professor Watson says the tendency to use such phrases is more likely to be found amongst large businesses than small businesses.
“It’s partly because it has become a dialect in these larger organizations,” he explains.
The professor advises HR managers to ditch sounding like an “evangelical preacher” and “talk with [employees] at regular intervals” to communicate effectively.