Calling a spade a spade

We are more and more at ease with understatement. George Carlin, who picked at our personal and societal weaknesses by laughing at them, had a biting yet oh-so-true take on understatement used by the military to qualify soldier trauma. Place to the master.

If you didn’t have the time to watch, or couldn’t because your workplace does not consider George Carlin as a business guru, here is the brief: in four wars, “shell-shock” morphed into “battle fatigue”, then “operational exhaustion”, to now “post-traumatic stress disorder”. Simple, honest, direct language from 70 years ago was iteratively made longer, more convoluted, more professional and jargon-ified, less emotional to the point of being dehumanized, I recall hearing comments a couple of years in the like of “post-traumatic stress disorder? What a bunch of sissies!” This would have never happened after WW I or WW II. This jargon-ification and dehumanization sure had the intended impact: to disconnect us, and ultimately disengage us from a shocking reality and remove it from the list of pressing issue. Amidst the biting comments and laughs, there is room for (self-)inquiry.

What George Carlin was picking at 10 years ago has only grown more pervasive. It also applies to business. We need to talk about how this is killing people engagement in our businesses. We do not say layoffs, we speak about reductions in force or even its abbreviated, musically inspired version the RiFs. We even let them go, now, as if they couldn’t wait to stay at home without a way to bring food for their children. This has gone beyond . We do not speak about , we speak about “economies of scale”. Beyond these, we are losing ourselves in complicated expressions to define what customers will pay for and stick to, what will make employees stay and work these extra hours without complaint, what will make our business thrive or die.


(To be continued)

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