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Abused Words of the Day: Social Justice

January 23, 2018

“Social justice” isn’t a group of people sharing family photos in a courtroom. It has nothing to do with social media. This lofty sounding term is being used ad nauseum by academicians, activists (another abused term) and even some business people in the name of income equality and fairness.

“Social justice warriors” seek to “effect social change,” with the implication that we’d all be better off if we just did what the social justice warriors want us to do. Fair treatment of everyone would be nice, but one person’s idea of social justice is often another person’s idea of anti-social justice.

Parents are paying tens of thousands of dollars to send their kids to college to learn about social justice,. Where’s the justice in that?

If it’s really all about fairness, the word “justice” will suffice.

Cliché of the Day: Blue-Sky Thinking

January 22, 2018

It’s ironic that “blue-sky thinking” is a synonym for “brainstorming.” Whether you’re a fan of brainstormy weather or, like Irving Berlin, envision “nothing but blue skies from now on,” you should know that “blue-sky thinking” made the list of most hated jargon terms in a survey by Glassdoor.

I suppose “blue sky” means thinking unobscured by clouds, birds, airplanes, hot air balloons, satellites, nuclear missiles or other miscellany that blot out the sun. So if your mind is as blank as the sky is blue, you’re ready for some blue-sky thoughts. In other words, the term should be used only by managers who want their employees to stop thinking.

Cliché of the Day: Hit the Ground Running

January 19, 2017

If you “hit the ground” while you’re running, you’ve either tripped or passed out from exhaustion. But, in the business context, “running” is the key word here. Those who hit the ground walking or jogging need to get “up to speed” and learn to “run with it.” If someone coming toward you is hitting the ground running, you may want to “hit the deck.”

Abused Words of the Day: The New Normal

January 18, 2018

Forty is the new 30, 60 is the new 40 and orange is the new black. For the economy, 2% growth is the “new normal,” until the economy grows at the old normal rate of 3+%. What was once normal is replaced by a new normal, at which point the old normal becomes abnormal. But what happens when the “new normal” grows old?

Robots: The New Journalists

July 15, 2014

“Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a ... canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?”

From I, Robot

Who wouldn’t want to replace reporters with robots?  It’s understandable when you consider the advantages.

Robots are available when needed.  They don’t call in sick, don’t complain, don’t make annoying demands and they’ll even work on holidays.  Their work may be flawless, they always make deadlines and they’re 100% objective.  They don’t gossip, don’t waste time talking about sports and won’t try to unionize.  They don’t collect a paycheck and they don’t need health insurance.

Robots make great employees, because they’re not human.  So it’s not surprising that the Associated Press this month has begun using robots from Automated Insights to generate up to 4,400 quarterly earnings reports.

AP isn’t the first to use robowriters.  Forbes uses algorithms from Narrative Science to research and write brief stories about companies whose stocks are performing well, while The Los Angeles Times uses bots to publish stories about earthquakes and homicides.

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!