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by Gary Watkins
CEO - Workinfo.com
While chairing a
disciplinary hearing concerning the non achievement of sales
targets by a sales person, I was faced with a total onslaught of
sales jargon. In those years we did not have the benefit of
“googling” the meaning of these phrases, and as a human
resource practitioner, and by implication an expert in corporate
jargon, I somehow suddenly felt uneducated.
While we all
appreciate the efforts of the plain language movement in eliminating
overly complex language from academic, legal and other circles, we
have some reservations.
language of all foreign language terms and phrases somehow leaves
the original bereft of all that made the language interesting. How
can one replace such terms as “bona fides”, “causa causans”,
“res ipsa loquitur”? They are as much a part of the English
language as is the reality of the Roman conquest of Britain. Hadrian’s Wall
is as much a monument to the Ancient Roman’s achievements as is
the living threads of Latin which permeate the language today.
Equally in South Africa
we have new words which have quietly integrated themselves into
South African English. The English equivalents of "ubuntu",
"imbizo", and "bosberaad" do not quite convey
the same meaning, either linguistically or culturally.
On the other
hand, while the plain language movement seemingly goes about its
job of making language accessible to everyone, and recommending
amongst others that when writing, the passive voice should not be
used; or foreign words should not be used when there is an
adequate English quid pro quo, this movement somehow has escaped
the world of business jargon. On the cynical front it is perhaps
because the plain language movement is synonymous with
Returning to our
underperforming sales person, when asked why he did not achieve
his sales targets, it was explained that:
was busy exploring various green fields, and he expected a white
horse to emerge at any stage, from which he could funnel sales.
Unlike his sales colleagues, no bluebirds had appeared on the
horizon yet, but he was extremely confident that the company’s
new value proposition and its succinct USP would assist going
forward in evangelising new prospects within the product and
At times our
sales person's defence sounded like an extract from the Beatles
song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, all equally
So in short, keep
the foreign language phrases but dump the jargon. They are very
different things. The former is the product of centuries of
civilisations impacting on each other, the latter, the product of
“management speak” by management consultants punting their
next publication with very little to offer – here today,
thankfully gone tomorrow.
Equally in the
field of human resources, as we search for Talent and embark on
Talent Acquisition strategies, conduct Human Capital Cost
Accounting, and balance Scorecards and try to adopt every passing
management fad, the world’s great institutions survived for
centuries because they are or were centred around some basic
principles: great leaders, shared beliefs, self discipline, common
goals, acculturation and enculturation and
our sales person was dismissed for lack of performance.
Regretfully incomprehension was not a listed charge.
Gary Watkins is
CEO of Workinfo.com.
Read more about cartoonist Mark
Back to ... Workinfo.com Human Resources Magazine Volume 1 Issue 8, 2007