If you are new to Corporate America and scratching your head at a few ‘buzz words’ flying around the place, allow me to clarify:
Developmental Opportunity. That’s code for, “Here’s the part of my job that I hate the most. Since you are new—and have absolutely no clue how much it sucks—I am going to wrap up this task in a big, pink bow and watch you crash and burn because that’s what I’m supposed to do. Once you fail—which is what you’re supposed to do—we can sit down and talk about self-awareness, gaining perspective, and a whole bunch of other vague phrases that make me feel better about tasking you with this mofo.”
Strengths and Gaps… Gaps? Really? HR was having a field day with this one. They were probably sitting high up in their ivory tower, having a meeting of the Euphemism Awareness Club—congratulating each other as they single-handedly managed to get everyone in the world to quit saying “weaknesses”—or at least not say it out loud or in front of HR executives. A “gap” is a weakness! You are weak at something. Great! That gives me an opportunity to teach you, because, according to HR, my job is to empower, not boss, you. So, if you suck, I can’t say that. Instead, we must focus in on this gap—which is just candy-coated substitute for “weakness”—because we don’t want any employees to feel criticized, minimized, or any other cruel “ize”.
Self-awareness: This is what happens when you didn’t pick up on the fact that you pissed someone off and you now find yourself sitting in their office as they toss this term at you like a pitcher at batting practice. As soon as you pissed them off, you were supposed to kiss their pinky finger, apologize profusely, and ramble on about how you were wrong and it will never happen again because you have gained this new self-awareness, thanks to them, that has truly enlightened your path. Gosh! I can’t believe you are so not in tune with thyself!
Leadership Courage: This is about making unpopular decisions—not necessarily wrong ones, just those that will make a substantial group of people unhappy. In order to do this, you MUST—I repeat, MUST—be popular to start with. If your decision was the right one, you demonstrate “leadership courage”. If your decision was wrong, you are a freakin’ douchebag and nobody can figure out how you got through the screening process. You do, however, win a few brownie points for acknowledging that you could have considered alternative options [Translation: I screwed up.]
Integrity: The ability to ignore self-interest —formerly known as “servant leader” and soon to be replaced by “custodial leader”, which, frankly, sounds like you’ll be cleaning up someone else’s mess. Integrity in corporate speak is something that is non-negotiable and, in many organizations, is the downfall of great leaders. If you have integrity, you must be willing to give up your complete set of Ginsu back-stabbing knives, dismiss your mistress, and stop using the company credit card to expand your personal wardrobe.
So folks, there you have it. The starter kit to becoming conversant in the language of corporate America—fluency is more than I can tackle here. Basically, you are smart enough to watch your phrasing, play the games, and take the elevator instead of climbing up a freakin’ ladder. If you wanted to climb a ladder, you should have been a commercial painter. And who wants to work that hard?
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