Are You Guilty Of Talking Guff?

When I was a kid, ‘guff’ was something you did after one too many tins of baked beans (if you get my drift). Nowadays it has a different meaning, applied to those corporate communications spouted by people who think they’re being creative or clever, but who leave you wondering what the heck they’re talking about. (And whether they’ve taken leave of their senses.)

In fact, so much guff has entered the business lexicon, a website has been set up to take it to task.

Guffipedia was borne of a series of articles by the FT journalist Lucy Kellaway. So fed up was she with receiving news releases containing corporate mumbo-jumbo, she launched the Golden Flannel Awards, giving prizes such as the ‘Chief Obfuscation Champion’, the ‘Sick Bucket Gong’ and the ‘Mixed Metaphor Award’.

The website showcases the winning entries, plus plenty more, as readers are invited to submit examples of guff they too have experienced.

So in the interest of ensuring you’re not guilty of talking guff (which would be less than desirable for your personal brand), here are a few examples of business lingo you’d do best to steer clear of:

Foundry

Translation into plain English: Develop

How it was used: “We want people saying, ‘I want to Foundry that project.’ That’s important, that’s important to think out of the box. Foundry it.”

Ground truthing

Translation into plain English: Checking

How it was used: “The assessment was based on international methodology and on ground-truthing.”

Optionality

Translation into plain English: Choice

How it was used: “We have significant optionality in our services.”

Reset expectations around the trajectory of one’s opportunity

Translation into plain English: Things aren’t going as well as expected

How it was used: “”Tungsten is making progress, achieving strong revenue growth and concluding encouraging customer renewal agreements, even as it resets expectations about the trajectory of its opportunity.”

Knowlivator

Translation into plain English: Knowledgeable motivator

How it was used: “What we look for: innovateer; knowlivator, logithiser, performibutor, proactiloper, professionary, prioricator, winnomat.”

(That one took the biscuit for just how much guff you could fit into one sentence.)

Value leakage

Translation into plain English: Wasted money

How it was used: “When the business and operational environment is complex there is a greater need for robust governance, as without it there is increased risk of shared service and vendor partnership value leakage.”

One of the awards that Lucy also gives is for ‘Best Euphemism For Firing People’, a selection of which are:

Tough choices

How it was used: “We will need to innovate in new areas, execute against our plans, make some tough choices in areas where things are not working and solve hard problems in ways that drive customer value.”

Optimized footprint

How it was used: “These actions will result in increased business efficiency, streamlined operations and an optimized consumer footprint across geographies.”

Demise

How it was used: “The bank will be demising the roles of 942 relationship managers.”

Finally, if you’ve got 2 minutes 47 seconds to spare and want to hear a whole load of guff in action, check out this video. It’ll either make you laugh with recognition or cringe with embarrassment, depending on whether you’re guilty of talking guff.

And next time you’re tempted to avoid calling a spade a spade, ask yourself if your communication could be nominated for a starring role on Guffipedia. It won’t do your personal brand any favours if it is!

What’s the worst guff you’ve seen/heard spouted in corporate life. Is there a guff bugbear that gets your hackles up every time you hear it? Let me know with a comment below. Ta.

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