Using management-speak indicates lack of security

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Something I’ve often wondered is, why do some managing directors and other senior executives feel the need to use jargon and management-speak in their everyday conversations?

Do people really understand what these executives mean when they say things like “blue sky thinking”, “thought shower,” and “touch base offline”?  And don’t they realise that expressions like “circle back”, “think outside the box”, “going forward,” and “drill down” are so clichéd they are boring – and, worse, meaningless.

Looking at some examples of written communications by some senior executives, or hearing them speak, can be truly awful.

There are many websites, such as, which show how horrible and laughable convoluted English is and give excellent examples of good and bad.

This particular website also gives examples of the sort of meaningless gobbledygook favoured by executives such as:  “My organisation believes in optional logistical capability” and “It’s time to revamp and reboot our homogenised incremental matrix approaches”.

Using another example from the website, why say “High-quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for facilitation and enhancement of the ongoing learning process,” when “Children need good schools if they are to learn properly” says it so much better.

Executives and other leaders can’t expect people to understand their mangled English when it is so full of buzz words it is like a foreign language to the audience they are trying to reach.

One of the best tips I have ever received about communicating is to imagine you are trying to explain the matter to your parents.

When communicating to employees, customers and clients this is clearly sound advice.  So why can’t senior executives see this?

While they may think using jargon shows they are smart, the people hearing it think differently and I believe that, far from being impressed, they often see it as a sign of weakness.

Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that there are several reasons managers might rely on management-speak, jargon and buzz words.

Lack of confidence

It has often occurred to me that clients are using buzz words simply because they aren’t very confident in themselves or what they were proposing. They hide behind jargon and gobbledygook to mystify what they are saying as they suspect, if presented simply, others might think their arguments are weak.

To seem important

Do executives use buzz words and jargon because they believe it makes what they are saying, and themselves, seem important?  I think they do – but what they don’t realise is that if people don’t understand them, it doesn’t matter how important they think they are.  Staff, customer and shareholder communication are good places to adopt the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid.

To show they are “in”

Perhaps another reason people use buzz words is because they think it is trendy and shows that they are up to date (or ahead of the game as they would probably put it).

The trouble is that it often shows the opposite – they are indicating they are not original thinkers.

Lacking language skills

Because they haven’t confidence in their writing or speaking skills, they try to cover up by using big words. The two combined, lack of confidence and management speak, is never going to get the message across clearly or persuasively.

For communication advisers, trying to convince executives to use simpler language can be frustrating and challenging, and can seem that success is impossible to achieve.

It’s too easy for anyone to fall into the trap of using jargon or management-speak as, like clichés, it’s a lazy way of writing and speaking.

Yet plain English that gives clarity is still worth fighting for – even if it might seem a rear-guard action at times.