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Business - Written by on Friday, December 19, 2008 16:45 - 4 Comments

Introducing Bruno’s Buzzword Bonanza: Layoff Lingo 2.0

Anyone who knows me is familiar with my buzzword fixation. In fact, I think I owe the bulk of my MBA to the effective overuse of fancy lingo. While a sound vocabulary is not to be underestimated, there’s nothing sillier than sentences over-peppered with empty words. Have you ever listened very carefully to one of those overly wordy people, initially impressed and intrigued, only to realize that despite their impressive constellation of words, strung together so eloquently, they hadn’t in fact said anything useful? That’s right, you all know that person.

…and yes, that’s right, I used ‘constellation.’

All kidding aside, I am genuinely intrigued by the effect word choice has on people and their perceptions. It’s amazing how much spin plays into image, both on a personal and organizational level, and how critical a role language plays in how we perceive things. This year has seen many events shape our current political, economic and social international environment. From a financial meltdown to an historic U.S. Presidential election, and everything in between, buzzwords were certainly abound. It was amazing to see how issues, people and events were, and continue to be, tagged and how certain words emerged as leading descriptors of mainstream topics. 2008 was oh so ‘mavericky,’ my friends.

A buzzword, however, isn’t always born obnoxious.

In fact, most of the time someone tags a concept with a great word, and simply takes it too far, or gets too excited about their new dictionary discovery. Yes, “word of the day” on your Google homepage along with those new terms you learn in school are exciting, I get it, but there’s only so much we can synergize, optimize and leverage in one breath.

So this post begins what I hope will be a buzzword exposé of sorts. “Bruno’s Buzzword Bonanza” aims to peel the onion back on these words and their use. Yeah, that’s right, we’re going to peel the onion back, people. Together we’ll explore current events and themes, and isolate their most over-used terms. I invite you, in the spirit of mass-collaboration, to submit your appropriate buzzwords for the theme explored, and suggest topics for upcoming editions. Perhaps you have a big assignment due on a certain issue and need to bulk it up with fancy, impressive and empty jargon… let me know what you’re writing about and perhaps the community can suggest some relevant words that will knock your Prof’s socks off. How’s that for synergy and collaboration?

To kick us off, this editions’ theme is: Layoffs.

I came across an interesting BusinessWeek piece in the December 22, 2008 issue of the weekly magazine. The article, “You’re fired: Rosy words for pink slips,” by Jena McGregor, explores the innovative semantic spin organizations are putting on their layoff lingo. While there’s no denying that the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost as a result of the year’s economic crisis are delivering a devastating blow to employees, organizations and industries worldwide, I was amazed to read about the cheeky spin employers are trying to put on this awful situation. I wonder: does a convoluted sentence or fancy word make a job loss any less painful?

Feel free to read the whole piece, but in the meantime I’ve made a top ten list of layoff buzzwords from the article. Among the terms employers are opting to use in lieu of the usual suspects known as “downsizing” and “rightsizing” are, in ascending order of ridiculousness ranking:

10. Rationalizing

9. Surplusing

8. Restructuring

7. Actions to simplify the organization

6. Offboarding

5. Reduction in force

4. Rethinking the social plan

3. De-verticalization

2. Strategic review of strategies

1. Synergy-related headcount adjustment goal.


Does that mean a faked sick day spent at the mall can be classified as an “image-related shoe count adjustment site visit?” Hmmm… how very outside-the-box…


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Mine seneste bookmarks (16.12.08 - 21.12.08) | Morten Gade
Dec 21, 2008 19:02

[...] Wikinomics » Blog Archive » Introducing Bruno’s Buzzword Bonanza: Layoff Lingo 2.0: (none) [...]

John McElhenney
Jan 3, 2009 18:59

I like your post, the topic is a bit of a bummer but the currency is certainly accurate for this place and time.

After going to your buzzword link to Wikipedia I found an interesting alternative link. Power word also referred to as Loaded Language. I like the idea of a word or phrase triggering emotions or a sequence of actions.

And another amazing buzz tool I have been using lately is Twitter Venn. A Venn diagram builder using Twitter traffic for reference. I wrote a post about it here. I think the currency of the twitter chatter is pretty good for IDing buzzwords.

Thanks for your post.

This conversation continues at nGenera Community
John McElhenney
View My Profile
Sr. eBusiness Consultant – Social Media
Dell – Global Online

Bruno's MBA Buddy
Jan 5, 2009 11:27

Great post!

When did “Synergy-related headcount adjustment goal” become an acceptable term for “your services are no longer needed”?

Have we lost site of the value of communicating anything but superficial jargon? As a society, are we preparing our future leaders to create value, maintain economic growth and protect the environment, or our we just teaching them to spin the truth with buzzwords?

Chillin Dillin
Jan 16, 2009 15:28

Quick…I need a simple buzzword for: Diaspora

I’m waiting…

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