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Why Employees Mistrust Management Talk

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 15 Jul 2017 | comments*Discuss
Management Talk Business Jargon Managers

Management talk or ‘jargon’ is rife within working environments and many managers who use it think it promotes a professional image. However, around 37 percent of employees mistrust management talk and claim it puts up barriers between managers and the workforce.

Why Managers Use Management Talk

Everyone is guilty of using jargon at some point or other but business jargon seems to becoming increasingly popular. For some, management talk has become second nature especially when business meetings take place. Some managers use recently learned business phrases picked up on training courses or through business magazines. In a number of cases it is language picked up in business meetings from other colleagues. The latest buzz words are designed to make managers appear more dynamic and knowledgeable when in fact they have the opposite effect.

Employees Mistrust Management Talk

The UK organisation Investors in People found that management talk is widely loathed by employees. Research indicates that employees who cannot understand business jargon feel alienated and that this type of vocabulary widens the gulf between managers and employees. Employees claim that it also breeds mistrust in the office and that some managers simply hide behind jargon when they do not know the solution to a problem. Other employees are simply baffled by it and claim that management talk leads to confusion about tasks and duties within their job roles.

Managers and Exclusive Vocabulary

For a number of managers, especially senior managers, the use of management talk is used to promote exclusivity. It is a way of informing employees that the manager knows what they are talking about and has the inside track on the latest business techniques. In terms of communicating ideas and business strategies it is a bad business tool that simply alienates workers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with specialised language and terminology, but if employees come out of a meeting scratching their heads then it is an ineffective way to communicate.

The Biggest Management Talk Culprits

Every organisation and company has them; managers and specific department employees who thrive on management talk and jargon. At the top of the list is the human resources (HR) department formerly known as the personnel department. But nonsensical business language is not just specific to the HR department. Senior managers are also guilty, especially those who work within large companies. Another guilty department would be the sales and marketing team. The information technology department (IT) at least have an excuse for using terminology that no one other than themselves can understand.

Most Loathed Management Jargon

New business buzz words appear in the workplace on an almost daily basis. Some can be self-explanatory but others can sound like a foreign language leaving employees scouring the internet for a meaning. Some of the most loathed management phrases include:

  • Blue sky thinking – to come up with ideas
  • Thinking outside the box – thinking unconventionally
  • Singing from the same hymn sheet – similar thinking
  • Helicopter view – taking an overview
  • Rightsizing – trimming the workforce to fit the workplace
  • Get our ducks in a row – to get everyone organised
  • Outside lane – to push a project forward in a hurry
  • Looking under the bonnet – analysing a situation

Advantages of Management Talk

There can be advantages to management talk as long as everyone is ‘on the same page’ and ‘in the loop’. For managers and employees who actually understand business jargon it can speed up communication. If everyone is aware of the meaning of the management jargon that is used then it can effectively be used to communicate tasks and objectives. Problems can arise if even one or two people are unaware of this type of language, especially with new recruits to a company.

Getting Rid of Management Talk

There are still managers who communicate their ideas in plain easy to understand vocabulary that employees and the public favour. In fact the Local Government Association (LGA) is advising managers and employees at councils to stop using management talk. The LGA have created a list of 200 business jargon words that should be cut out in order to avoid confusion. The LGA claim the public sector is notorious for hiding behind incomprehensible business jargon that infuriates members of the public.

Management talk does have some big disadvantages when it comes to employees and trust. Employees do prefer straight talking, easy to understand vocabulary in order to avoid confusion. For some employees management talk is simply a mask to cover up a lack of knowledge. As one employee said, “If a manager can’t be understood then they can’t be criticised if they are giving wrong information.”

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if my manager discusses my back to work meeting with another employee without myself being aware of this or giving permission. what are my rights to confidentiality and is my boss allowed to chat freely about it with other staff without me being aware
dkirkwood12 - 15-Jul-17 @ 11:12 AM
Ah - something about management that makes sense; that not something we see often. A point that you don't emphasise enough, is the exclusivity (if there is such a word) that management talk often projects: the sense that "We are a breed apart, and you are not invited". I think this is often exactly what management wants employees to feel, whether is it conscious or not, and not surprisingly, this is exactly the right way to alienate your staff. It becomes all the more efficient at doing so, when the managers in question are very evidently less competent than their subordinates - IOW, very often.
j4nd3r53n - 10-Nov-13 @ 10:20 AM
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