Sunday, February 28, 2010


I read something in the paper today about a bunch of bureaucrats who "speak perfect management jargon" and yet were totally ineffective and failed to act in the interests of a little boy in foster care. It started me thinking about a manager I'm currently working with who might well fit this bill, and why people continue to use jargon like "good corporate governance", "capability frameworks", and "consultative justice". It occurred to me that what many managers in this boat have in common is the complaint that they are not heard.

I suspect that they think using bigger words and more jargon will demonstrate their intellectual superiority, stump up their credibility and force others to listen (ie. give them some authority, which is really important to them). I feel a bit sorry for these people, because it generally has the opposite effect. Instead of connecting with and influencing people, it alienates and confuses them.

The manager I am currently working with has employed another tactic to stump up her credibility which has also backfired horribly. Her role requires her to work with authorities to find better ways for them to deal with minority groups. Every time she asserts her own point of view with her boss, colleagues and staff she prefaces it with "the community thinks..." as a way of getting others to take her views on board, and perhaps because she lacks some confidence in her own views. Unfortunately, the people she works with have concluded that she is overly sympathetic to the community and does not hold the organisation's interests as her first priority. They have confused her motive.By using jargon, and attempting to fool others, she has ensured that fewer people see her as a credible person, reducing her own effectiveness.

I have worked with a number of people who employ a variation on this technique and use an unfounded generalisation eg. 'the public want...', 'consumers think...', 'the boss will want...'etc.

So what should manager's with credibility issues change so that they are listened to? I'd recommend that they preface their assertions with "In my experience". It's a lot closer to the truth, and truth is good for credibility.