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Abused Words of the Day: Change Agent

February 23, 2018

A change agent, unlike a real estate agent, insurance agent or secret agent, exists because nothing can ever stay the same. 

A “change agent” must have “vision” and be a “thought leader.” You wouldn’t want a blind change agent or one who is a thought follower. 

If your company needs a change agent, be certain to find one who doesn’t change whatever is working in your business, but who instead focuses on areas where change is needed. Be certain, too, that you have a change-for-the-better agent, not a change-for-the-sake-of-change agent.

If you hire the wrong change agent, you may have to change change agents.

Abused Word of the Day: They

February 16, 2018

One person cannot be a “they.” A business or an organization cannot be a “they.” Yet they are regularly expanding the use of “they.”

We’ve all become squeamish about the pronoun “he,” but substituting “they” when you’re writing about one person is absurd. It beats he/she, but it’s best to make the subject plural whenever possible, so that “they” can be used.

He is not a “they,” she is not a “they” and your company or the organization you work for is not a “they.” It’s not even a person. It’s an “it.” Don’t write, “Banana Corporation announced that they are introducing a new version of the popular y-phone.” Write, “Banana Corporation announced that it is introducing a new version of the popular y-phone.”

There’s also “they say,” in which “they” is never defined. When someone says, “They say that salt is bad for you,” that person lacks credibility, because it’s not clear who “they” is. You know what they say: only use “they” when referring to more than one person and be sure to identify who they are first.

Abused Words of the Day: Touch Base.

February 5, 2018

I’m not sure where the “base” is, but I’m guessing it’s somewhere near the box that everyone is thinking outside of.

Depending on whose base you’re touching, and where that base is located, you can get in trouble for touching base in today’s workplace. Trying calling or emailing instead.

To “touch base” is to “talk to someone for a short time to find out how they are or what they think about something,” according to the Cambridge Dictionary. We’re not sure at what point “short time” becomes “long time” and touching base becomes something else entirely.

This overused construction was recently named the most loathed example of “management-speak” in a British survey of 2,000 people. Apparently, “It is what it is” hasn’t hit Great Britain yet.

Abused Word of the Day: Fascist

February 12, 2018

Today, those who call others “fascists” often have more in common with fascists than the people they’re criticizing.

The word “fascist” comes from the Italian word “fascio,” meaning “group” or “bundle,” because under fascism, the emphasis is on the group with few individual rights. A fascist believes in a strong central government and has no tolerance for opposing opinions.

That sounds a lot like Antifa, the antifascist organization.

You may dislike President Trump, but that doesn’t make him a fascist. In fact, President Obama came closer to being a fascist, as he greatly expanded the role of government and set a record for adding new regulations, frequently without seeking Congressional approval.

When President Obama took office, the U.S. ranked fifth on the Index for Economic Freedom. After eight years of increasing government control through the most excessive regulation in the country’s history, the U.S. ranked 17th. In contrast, President Trump has been deregulating.

Fascism typically evolves from socialism or communism. As Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich A. Hayek wrote, “Fascism is the stage reached after communism has proved an illusion.” Nazism, likewise, evolved from socialism. Hayek’s book, The Road to Serfdom, was written as a warning to the United States and the United Kingdom, which were becoming increasingly socialistic.

Keep that in mind the next time you think about calling someone who disagrees with you a fascist.

Abused Word of the Day: Talent

June 30, 2014

At one time, employers had employees.  A Personnel Department managed hiring of employees, as well as employee benefits and policies.

Today Human Resource Departments are in charge of hiring "talent" or, in the more collectiveist organizations, "people."

No doubt some employees are very talented, but referring collectively to your employees as your “talent” is a stretch unless you manage a talent agency. 

Employees really don’t mind being called employees.  They no doubt prefer the term to "human resources."

Abused Term of the Day - Real Time

June 27,2014

Isn’t all time real?  Yet in the business world, we frequently use the term “real time,” as though there were also “fake time” or maybe “unreal time.”

In today’s busy world, we want our news as it’s happening – in “real time.”  We want to chat online in real time and we’d like our brokers to track financial data in real time, so they can make sound investing decisions.  We want “real time” data and we may tweet to share information in real time.

But the concept of real time is a bit surreal.  If “real time” is the time when something actually happens, does it become “fake time” after it happens?

Abused Word of the Day - Empower

June 26, 2014

In the 17th century, “empower” was a legal term, meaning “to invest with authority.”

In the 1960s, when the civil rights movement and women’s movement hit their stride, “empowerment” became a fancy way of saying “power to the people.”  Sort of a way of saying, “We don’t want equality, we want power.”

Now that the college students of the ’60s are all grown up and, in many cases, are in positions of power, they are promising to “empower” their employees.

But today, “empowerment” has a new meaning.  Roughly translated, when employers “empower” employees, they are giving them more responsibility without more pay.

If you are an “empowered” employee and disagree, try any one of the following and let us know how empowered you really are:

  • ·         Tell your boss that the weather is too nice, so you are taking the week off.
  • ·         Give yourself a raise.
  • ·         Redecorate your office, charging all expenses to the company.
  • ·         Tell your boss, “You report to me now.”
  • ·         Better still, fire your boss.

“Empower” is a word that has lost its power.  Employees are still employees, no matter how “empowered” they’ve become.

Abused Word of the Day - Engage

June 25, 2014

It’s time to disengage from the word "engage."

This overused word is often used with "audience," because speakers want to "engage" their audience, even though they have no intention of marrying it.  

Marketing and sales professionals most often want to "drive engagement," but need to fill it with gas first.  Better still, the cliche-oriented business professional seeks to “drive meaningful engagement.”

What makes an engagement meaningful?  Is it an intangible bond between the engager and the engagee, or is it closing a sale?

Abused Word of the Day - Onboarding

June 24, 2014

Human resource professionals are among the greatest abusers of the English language.

The people who brought us right-sizing, downsizing and a dozen other ways to say, “You’re fired,” have now introduced the term “onboarding.”

Onboarding is how new employees acquire the knowledge and skills they need to become effective employees.  In other words, they’re “on board” and assimilated into the workplace.

“Onboarding” is off-putting.  This concoction is more painful than waterboarding.  Stop the torture!

Abused Word of the Day - Asset

June 23, 2014

The term "asset," of course, plays an important role in business, but the term is often used to describe property that doesn't belong on the balance sheet -- employees, for example, are often described as "human assets."

Used in a sentence, “When human assets are leveraged, employers can increase their human capital valuation.”  Assets are valuable possessions that you own, so don’t refer to your employees as “human assets” unless you practice slavery.

All of your assets should be inhuman.

Here's another example of how the word can be misused.  While helping out a non-profit, someone sent me a media list and referred to it as one of his “PR assets.”  I thought of the person who sent me the list as an asset, with the emphasis on the first syllable.