The Worst Examples of "Corporate Speak"



Ever since the fall of the Tower of Babel, people have been speaking in different languages and they are a core part of what separates humanity from our animal cousins There are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today, with some of the most commonly spoken being English, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and Hindi.  

As a species, we invent new languages all the time, with the most recent official languages being Esperanto, invented in 1887, and Light Warlpiri, a combination of the Walpiri language of an indigenous people living near the Tanami Desert in Australia's northern territory and English. When simple geographical or cultural differences weren’t enough to promote the creation of new languages, we invented new languages based on our jobs and hobbies.


Pretty much any gathering of people in the same sector will have their own internal language, you might see veteran card players 'muck' their hand, rather than fold it, divers will refer to driving in murky water as a Braille dive, and when gamers refer to nerfing, it doesn't have anything to do with little foam darts.


Perhaps one of the most odious forms of sector language is “Corporate Speak”, the jumble of slang and misappropriated terms thrown around in ‘high-powered’ business meetings by people who mistake owning the latest Tag watch with having a personality.


Unfortunately, like lead leaching into the water supply, some of these terms have made their way into everyday usage and today we’ll be looking at some of the worst of them.


Easily taking the title as the most condescending transitive verb in the world, empowering is what your boss thinks they are doing when they give you the basic tools to do your job and you complete it because of your actual talents.


It’s a way of management subtly taking ownership of both you and your work while still managing to somehow suggest they had a hand in completing it. 

Open the Kimono

Theoretically, this means to reveal pertinent information. In reality, given the number of cases in the #metoo era that involved an improperly fastened robe, it is a deeply creepy saying that should not be brought out in any circumstance, let alone in a business meeting. 

Cloudy Sky Thinking

Not content with the ridiculousness of ‘blue-sky thinking’ cloudy sky thinking encourages business people of all stripes to think without restrictions, but also to consider the restrictions and potential downsides. 


This completes a philosophical paradigm that started with unrestricted thinking but is slowly adding back the restrictions so that it moves full circle and arrives back at standard thought.

New Servant Economy

An utterly derisive way of referring to sections of the service industry who perform jobs that parallel those that used to be performed by servants until we grew out of owning people. 


The term, also sometimes referred to as wealth work or Uber for X economy, came into being around the same time that there was an uptick in the number of people working as pedicurists, drivers, fitness trainers, nutritionists and other jobs that could be categorized as catering to the whims of the wealthy.


Learning, as most people will tell you, is a verb, not a noun, but that hasn’t stopped certain business types from using it as a noun. 


You might find management asking you what ‘learnings’ might be drawn from a certain project or how you might categorize your team's ‘learnings’ based on certain feedback. You should probably resist the urge to point out that this makes them sound illiterate. 

Giving 110%

An oldie but a goodie, giving 100%, as anyone with even a passing familiarity with maths will tell you, is as much as you can possibly give. However, workers across the globe are routinely asked to give 110% by disregarding such distractions as basic numeracy.


The truly odd thing is that the dial seems to have stuck at 110%. Having utterly ignored maths in order to push past 100%, thereby opening up a theoretically infinite number of numbers to ask tired retail staff to push for, the greatest minds in business seem to have settled for just an extra 10%.


In football terms, to punt is to kick the ball to the other team. In the business sense, it has come to mean moving anything anywhere.

Despite being a very particular term in football, punt has become an infuriatingly vague idea of movement in the boardroom with the most common designation being “to make it someone else’s problem.”