So Many Buzz Words, So Little Time

From some of my prior writings, you know how I love buzz words.  Especially in the employee-employer context that I see so often in the management literature.

I’m not really sure what motivates people to “rebrand” and try to stake original claim to concepts that have been around forever, more or less.  And I’m also not seeing any of this “elevated thought” being put into actual practice by all of the “influencers” and so-called “thought leaders.”  In fact, I see the old traditional, industrial-age, top-down, hierarchical, my-way-or-the-highway management structure still thriving.

And regardless of all the hype about worker retention, the words of my past managers still ring in my head that “attrition is our friend.”  In other words, if you were one of the creative ones, the ones that offered innovative thoughts and solutions, that in anyway questioned authority and the old “we’ve always done it that way” mentality, well then, you needed to be driven out of the organization, not retained.  You were a threat to management.

In fact, if you were innovative, you were considered a direct and lethal threat to the management team that was busy (barely) trying to justify their own existence.  They didn’t want any smart folks replacing their glacial-moving, accomplish-as-little-as-is-necessary, paper-pushing to retain their Herman Miller “Cosm chair” complete with “auto-harmonic tilt, intercept suspension, and flexible frame” working “together to give them the feeling of weightlessness.” 🙂 

So, with that slightly cynical and sarcastic, yet realistic, intro, here are today’s buzzwords.  And there was a cluster of them today.  “Unbossing,” “servant leaders,” “knowledge workers,” and “compassionate directness.”

And now that the laughter has subsided . . .

The context of the buzz today involved what techniques should be used to attract millennials to the workplace.  Because they are so different than anyone else when it comes to their basic needs when it comes to employment?  Humm.

So, we have “unbossing” where the “servant leaders” put the success of their teams above their own success.  Where employees are taught to believe in the mission so they work for the mission and not to please the boss.

Sounds good.  Old news, that idea of striving for the mission, but hey, whatever new spin you want to use, right?

But the ideas propounded to foster this working environment being highlighted are things like allowing your employees to where jeans to work.  ????  This is supposed to instill the desire to feel independent, be comfortable and be creative.  The focus being the end product, not having a fashion show at work.

Ok, now I do like wearing jeans, and have no problem with them in the employment sector.  However, I worked in professions that required uniforms – in one scrubs, in the other a suit and tie.  And one can certainly argue that dressing alike creates the atmosphere of everyone being a clone.  A nurse is a nurse is a nurse.  A suit is a suit is a suit.  All are replaceable by another one looking exactly the same.  That’s the same way the military culture works – shaved heads, uniformed lookalikes allow the general to bury a whole battalion of troops because there are always more identical battalions to march into battle.

Would the same be true of an all denim-clad workforce?

I have no idea, but I’m not sure wearing jeans instills belief in a mission or translates to exuberant productivity.  Although it might be easier on the employee’s budget, as long as employees stay away from designer jeans. 😊

Ok, then the term “knowledge workers” was tossed about.  Which implies, of course, that there are also “stupid workers” or I suppose “common laborers” is a nicer term.

I see this one as being divisive.  It implies a hierarchy of employees dictated by intelligence and that different employees should be treated differently.  Management should only be inclusive when it comes to their employees having some form of superior knowledge to contribute.  I disagree with both the labeling and the concept.

Sorry, but the employees that will be missed first are the ones emptying the trash and cleaning the toilets, and I doubt they were included in the category of “knowledge workers.”  I would empower all employees equally and recognize their individual contributions.  In fact, I’ve known plenty of fellow employees in the housekeeping department that had far better ideas to improve the company than their CEOs.

Then we have “compassionate directness.”  This supposedly means that employees are allowed the ability to speak up, give feedback, disagree, and there could be an exchange of constructive criticism – all to achieve “peak performance” and allow employees to reach their “highest potential,” which, in turn, would drive the corporate mission.

This all sounds to me a little like having a refereed fight.  Everybody is allowed to bloody each other’s noses, but in the end, everyone comes out smiling.  😊

I see no problem with allowing employees to hash things out and achieve consensus.  And I totally believe in direct communication, as opposed to the so-often-utilized passive aggressive bullshit.  But that word “compassionate” throws me a bit in this context.

The buzzword I saw being used for this same concept in the not-so-distant-past was “buy-in.”  You let everyone voice their ideas on a particular decision and then even if you, as boss, or now “boss servant” go another direction, then everyone, at least, feels like they had a chance to contribute their ideas and debate the merits of different options.  At some point, though, someone has to steer the ship and make a decision, and it may be difficult to regard that person as a servant.  Even though everyone is supposed to “buy-in” to the execution of that decision and be happy for having the group strategy session.

Adding compassion to the word directness throws in the concept of “feeling or showing sympathy and concern for others,” which seems to be implied already if you’re allowing others to offer their voice, even if people tend to think their ideas are superior to everyone else’s.  I suppose if your really boil this one down, the base idea is that offering up your ideas won’t result in you being fired by the boss.

That’s a little more “direct” way to phrase it, even if that doesn’t sound very compassionate.

What I actually saw in practice in the work place where “thought-contribution” was allowed, (There, I made up my own buzz phrase for today.) that highly complex decisions were made rapidly with little consideration because complex matters are harder to analyze and comprehend, whereas, a decision to put a bicycle rack out by the parking lot might take a couple of months with everyone fighting over the design, placement, and cost of a few hollow metal tubes.

So, there’s my take on the “new” buzzwords of the day.  I hope that all of you in the workforce have truly compassionate managers who value your individual input regardless of how these communications are labeled and spewed about in the artificial world of business journals.

In Metta


Photo:  It’s always a bit of challenge to pick a pic for a business related theme when my lens focus is usually on Nature.  But here’s one of a balloon launch, the success of which depends on the cooperative efforts of the whole team.  Although, at some point, someone does have to pilot the balloon and hopefully keep it from crashing into power lines, regardless if they are “unbossing,” “servant leaders,” listening only to their “knowledge workers” exercising “compassionate directness.”  🙂


7 thoughts on “So Many Buzz Words, So Little Time”

  1. I have many feelings about letting millenials dictate how business should be run. The one that annoys most of my friends who manage them is their need to wear headphones or whatever during the workday. I thunk it’s worse in most instances to not hear what’s going on around you. Talk about I and team and all

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed, and the same applies as to allowing any select group dictate how a business should be run. I also feel like being “present” and not distracted is extremely important. And it’s been shown time and time again that multi-tasking does not work. Earbuds, music, phones, texts, you tube, etc. do not contribute to productivity.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. And whatever your “thought contribution” for the day is, you’ll be ignored or your boss, if he has half a brain, will take credit for your “contribution.” Only when I was being paid big bucks to come in from the outside as a consultant did anyone listen…and take seriously…my thought contribution. The fee got their attention. They were paying me for something, right? But when I said the same thing as an employee, on ignore! Hey Earth, have you thought about making this a TedTalk? I’m like your biggest fan out here in nowheresville.

    Liked by 1 person

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