Learning The Language In a Foreign Country

So yeah. The new job. Good job. VERY good job. Great folks. Super team.

Like it. A lot.


(Because you *knew* there was going to be a however)

This is a pretty old school type of company. Because they are so old fashioned, I’ve discovered in my short time here that the straight faced usage of corporate buzz-words is rampant.

Rampant. (just needed to emphasize that)

I would imagine these days that one couldn’t work anywhere and NOT run across the ol’ popular buzzwords, but it’s especially bad here.

“Low hanging fruit,” for example, is one of my all time least favorite expressions. I first heard it back in 1994 in Albuquerque. Yes, I remember the moment I first heard this ridiculous phrase, because I had an immediate “why would you say that” reaction to it.

Guess what I hear just about daily here in the Bay Area in 2010? Yep.

“Think outside the box” still has life.

“Think inside the box” is fairly new, and it’s bandied about a bit. It means, roughly, the old way may not be so bad anymore. (Funny how, in a financial crisis, everyone turns back to the textbooks as a way to bail themselves out.)

“That’s powerful” is one I wish wasn’t taking on life, but it is. Example: “We wrote up the workflow for that process and posted it on line. It’s very powerful.”

Yeah. No.

My super executive boss type guy dropped a “let’s form a Tiger Team” on me two days ago.

Ok. Remember Tiger Teams? I do. It was the year 1997 and I worked for Lockheed. We paid an outside consultant A LOT of money to help us form a Tiger Team to figure out why every meeting we had descended into yelling at each other.

Turns out, we were just a team of very strong personalities from vastly different disciplines (procurement, engineering, marketing, etc) and the only way we could ever get anywhere was by arguing.

So the term “Tiger Team” really makes me twitch.

But by god, I’m on a newly formed Tiger Team here at work.

There is a new bit of jargon that seems to be catching on. I hate it. Oh I hate it. Almost as much as I hate “low hanging fruit.”

Ready for it?

The phrase is….”set it and forget it.”

As in, “With that new reporting software, you can just set it and forget it. It’s so great!”


“Now that we’ve established pricing on that product, we can’t just set it and forget it. We have to keep checking the demand reports.”

So let me just say that while I’m a longtime fan of Ron Popeil and his Ronco commercials, I fully blame him for bringing this atrocity into my life.

Business people are seriously using a phrase from a dagblam infomercial for a @#$%ing chicken roaster!

Why? Why does this show up at my conference table?!?!?!?

The Good Man says he heard this phrase in use a few years back, and I believe him. It’s new to me and I sure as heck don’t want to set it, and now that everyone is using it, there’s no possible way I *can* forget it.

I guess “set it and forget it” is just a new square added to the buzzword bingo playing card.

There’d better be good prizes, because at this job, I’m gonna be winning (or is it losing) every day!

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  • New Mexican

    I remember being in meetings and someone said something and the person at the flip chart would say "let me capture that" as he wrote the thought on the flipchart.

    My favorite all time was one I used a lot. It was "tweak it a bit". I remember being in a meeting and someone said we have to come clean, we have to bring out the truth. My answer was "we come clean and tell the truth after we tweak it a bit".

    We tweaked the truth and lived to attend many more meetings.

  • Karen Fayeth

    New Mexican – Tweaking the truth, love it!

    That seems to be a great pastime amongst politicians of every political affiliation!

  • Anonymous


    My first thought was to tell you that "life is too short to stay working at a place that you don't like".

    But I've thought better. I think that there is a BIG opportunity for advancement because your competitors are lasy thinkers. A thinking person will have an advantage just because any other ideas will all be the same. Any real 'thinking out of the box' will be new and original.

    The plan:

    1) Identify an up and coming member of your boss' class.

    2) Do things you can to make his job easier.

    3) Step into his job.

    Unfortunately, the place you describe is more the norm than the exception. Not only that, there's no way to find that out beforehand. So just changing jobs may mean that you go from one frying pan to another.


  • Karen Fayeth

    Ephraim – I realize I should be more clear, I actually love my job. I mean, I'm only here less than a month, but it's a really wonderful place.

    Part of why I took the job was all the potential for upward promotion chances. Already they are talking of adding a whole other group to my span of control.

    That said…they are super stodgy and a bit old fashioned. But in a harmless way. And I think my not-very-stodgy manner is a bit of fresh air for the team. They said they needed "new blood" in the org and boyohboy they got that with me!

    If my biggest complaint is a few buzzwords, then I'm doing really, really well!!

    It's just my way, I like to complain, even when I'm happy.

    Thanks for looking out for me!!

  • Elise

    You know, I think buzzwords are rampart at every organization. Yours is an old fashioned org, so the buzzwords are appropriately old school. In advertising, they were new, trendy buzzwords. But still buzzwords. And rampant is an understatment. I've known people who could construct entire sentences from them and nothing but them.

    There's a reason my Twitter bio reads, "I crowdsource vigorous post-dynamic folksonomies while engaging synergistic user-generated viral ecologies! In my underwear!"

    It'll make someone who loves words grind her teeth, won't it?

  • Karen Fayeth

    Elise – oooh yeah, the marketing and advertising folks, they always have a buzzword when a normal word will do! lol

    But their buzzwords are always cool, hip and way better than ours over in finance.


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