The systemic problem with business-speak

in Musings

This is the introduction to an article I first published on Medium.

Think about the modern working world for a moment. Think about the different types of job there are. Now think about the value they give to society. Finally, see if you agree with what social anthropologist David Graeber has to say on the subject.

Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. … It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish.

The chances are that you agree with what he has to say. The chances are you’re in one of those very jobs that would not cause humanity to suffer if it no longer existed. In 2015 a YouGov survey found that 37% of British workers think their jobs are meaningless. The same survey discovered that 33% of workers do not find the work they do fulfilling.

David Graeber theorises that the reason there are so many meaningless jobs is because much manual labour has been eliminated by automation. But instead of freeing us up to enjoy more leisure time, we have seen the expansion of the administration and service sector and sectors designed to support those sectors.

All this makes for saddening reading. Lots of questions arise about how we have ended up in a situation like this. But I’d like to explore one specific result of the situation and what we can do about it.

The rise of business-speak

What is it? It’s business-speak — the over-formal language, jargon and buzz phrases that surround so many of us in our working worlds.

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