Go from being a fan of empty phrases to communications boss

Why Managers Use a Different Language in the Office (and Why They Should Leave It Behind!)

Are you famous in your office for being a fan of corporate lingo? If so then you’re not alone, because many executives speak a managerial language in the work environment. There are lots of reasons for using a specific language in a senior-level role. But beware, in the long run, it is likely to do you more harm than good. We explain why you should say goodbye to those business buzzwords today rather than tomorrow.

Many executives speak in a language that is different to the one they use in their private life. Why is this?

Managers are one of a kind. They live in their own world, a narrowly-defined habitat – the office. Here, they are among others in similar positions and, as a result, they often develop their own way of speaking. And this language can prove hard for outsiders to understand. It is often the case that as soon as a manager leaves the comfort of their living space and puts on a suit, he or she automatically switches on their managerial voice. So, why do managers use a different language in the office to the one they use in their private life? And how do you as manager find your way through this linguistic maze?

Full of empty phrases

Managerial language is renowned for being full of business buzzwords. They may sound pretty. But ultimately they say nothing. More often than not, using this language results in rambling descriptions of complex procedures, innovative projects experiencing hiccups and confusion surrounding actions on to-do lists. A beautifully terrible world of language.

3 reasons managers use corporate jargon

Of course, a managerial language would not be so popular if it didn’t have at least some advantages, explains communications expert Michael Fischer and career coach Dr. med. Christine Gindert.

  • You want to appear competent and have your say

When managers use business speak, they do so for one reason. You want to convey the following to your audience: I am speaking on the same level as you. Because what could be worse for a manager than not feeling part of things? By using well-known terms, you show that you have mastered these linguistic codes inside out. You want to show that you understand the topic at hand and voice your thoughts and options. That’s how you demonstrate competence – or maybe fake it … Ultimately, you want to show others that you know what is best.

  • You want to stand out

“By using managerial phrases, you differentiate yourself from others,” explains Munich-based psychologist Dr. Christine Gindert. “You use your language to create boundaries – from other departments, colleagues or business areas.” On the one hand, this language creates a considerable distance, which can prove to be useful in certain situations. On the other hand, when it comes to your own interests, it could create negative distance between your and colleagues as well as be demotivating for others around you.

  • You feel uncomfortable or out of your depth

Another reason for the use of managerial language: you can avoid potentially awkward situations by hiding behind empty phrases. This may be the case if a specific personal statement seems too risky “or you simply feel emotionally or cognitively overwhelmed as a manager”, adds Gindert. This is also often the case in important strategic or financial decisions or complex personnel issues. The language you use as a manager in these situations serves as a shield.

Why you should say goodbye to managerial language

As mentioned previously, there is no doubt that the use of language and phrases associated with those in senior-level positions can be useful in certain situations. Nevertheless, you should ask yourself the question: Do you really want to change yourself linguistically so much that you rob yourself of your greatest strength – your individuality? Communications expert Michael Fischer warns: “Be extremely careful with your language, especially in post-factual times. This is particularly true in today’s high-speed, digital working environment, where the overuse of empty phrases can quickly lead to dramatic misunderstandings. For example, if you have to deliver bad news to your employees, don’t bombard them with trivial, factually-empty phrases. Your choice of words should be appropriate, to the point, open and honest.”

Use clear language as a USP

A clean, focused style of communication acts as your linguistic business card and is a huge weight that you can use to your advantage. Our tip to help you get started: Create a blacklist – write down all the phrases that you no longer want to use. Next to each phrase, make a note of a clear and transparent alternative.

The road is certainly rocky, but it will pay off for you in the long term if you are known in the company as the manager who “is the only one who calls a spade a spade”. The advantages for you: Your language is perceived by colleagues, bosses and employees as comprehensible. You will also gain a great deal of authenticity with this style of speech and writing. Others around you will see that you stand for something or for a specific attitude. You will be viewed as a respected sparring partner, especially when it comes to conducting constructive discussions on important topics. And before you know it you will go from being the king of phrases to the office communication driver.


About the author

Jörg Peter Urbach is the author, editor and blogger of Sprachleidenschaft. He has been writing for more than 25 years, for both print and online, and has published concepts, stories, and journal articles. After studying music and German language and literature, Jörg Peter worked as an editorial manager in the classical music industry. As long-time chief editor of the portal wissen.de, he knows how to inspire readers with clever topics.

When the author from Kiel is not writing, he enjoys walking through the Alps, or listening to the opera with mindfulness.


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