The Garden of Bullshit

Like a lot of people out on that 9-5 grind, I work in Corporate America. Woo-fuckin-hoo. I bet you can tell how much I love my job, right? The joy and satisfaction just oozes out of me. There’s nothing quite so thrilling as being a tiny cog in a large machine.

This guy is on cocaine, so he feels great.

Work is a pretty big part of our lives – if the sleep goal is 8 hours a night, then those beautiful non-sleep-deprived people are awake for 16 hours every day and spend half of that time (another 8 hours, for those of you keeping score) at the office. That’s a whole lot of your life spent on the phone, in front of a computer, and in front of people you pretend to care about. It matters to us in other ways too – one of the first questions people ask when first meeting is “where do you work?” That can be pernicious, to judge character or sniff out networking opportunities, or it can be more innocent – if someone spends half of their waking hours working, then that’s a relatively important part of their life.

What do I do? Well. I work in data aggregation for an investment consulting firm. Which is to say that I spend all day pressing “copy” and “paste” and think about killing myself.

I am Jack’s carpal tunnel.

People – especially those who have been in established careers for a while and forget what it’s like to look for a job – sometimes will ask me why I accepted this job if I have no interest in the field, or why I still work there even though it inexorably eats away at my mental health. The only response I have is that, you know, being able to pay rent is nice. Oh, and health insurance? That’s cool too. And I like beer, you need money to buy beer. It’s the little things, really.

My job is about 5% actual thought process, 20% depression, and 75% buzzwords. Every field and every firm have their own buzzwords, and it’s not a new phenomenon either – according to Wikipedia and the Online Etymology dictionary, the first published use of the term “buzzword” can be traced back to a 1946 paper in which Hallgren and Weiss described shorthand used by students at Harvard. On the face of it, buzzwords aren’t a bad thing – they serve as verbal shortcuts that can both convey lots of contextual information in a small word/phrase and help members of a group feel more connected to each other. The problem comes when organizations take buzzwords and overuse them to the point of perversion, at which point each phrase is completely nonsensical but still used in place of true communication. As an attempt to stay sane, I’ve been compiling a small glossary of the worst buzzwords at my office. A garden of bullshit, if you will. And what better way to get myself fired and end my misery than to post it on the Internet where anyone could find it?


Inigo Montoya will always be relevant.
  1. Transparency (n.)
    1. In the wild:
      1. The state of being open, frank, and candid.
    2. In a sentence:
      1. “We want to be transparent and provide additional transparency regarding the upcoming transparency process changes.”
    3. In my office:
        1. In its purest sense, this is what I mean by the perversion of a buzzword. My managers will drop some form of “transparency” about 68 times per meeting, but will proceed to carry on obfuscating the true goals behind projects, what is going on with deadlines, and personnel shifts. It’s almost like they think the word is a magic spell, as if the more times you invoke transparency the more likely it is to occur. Well let me tell you this, from experience – the world don’t work that way. Do you know how many times I have tried to make sweet sweet love to Ryan Reynolds by just saying aloud that it’s happening over and over (and over and over) again? It still hasn’t worked. I’m not bitter.



      If this guy isn’t in the middle of directing a porno, I’ll eat my hat.
    4. Operational Tightness (n.)
      1. In the wild:
        1. When I googled this, a bunch of stuff about gaskets and seals came up and something about HOTT (Hot Operational Tightness Test).
      2. In a sentence:
        1. “We need to ensure that we have operational tightness as we approach our core work.”
      3. In my office:
          1. I think what they’re going for here is efficiency. But if I’m being honest, the phrase “operational tightness” kind of gives off a weird, sexual vibe. Doesn’t it sound kind of dirty? Operational tightness. Shit is tight…operationally. Doesn’t it make you feel kind of uncomfortable? I feel uncomfortable writing it so much. It sounds like something a porno director would say to his lead actress. Like “Jasmine, I really love your enthusiasm but make sure you maintain operational tightness throughout the shot.” Next time, that director will make his actors and actresses undergo a Hot Operational Tightness Test prior to hiring them for his porn parody of Mrs. Doubtfire.



        Lemmings: the only rodents that exterminate themselves.*
      4. Over-the-Cliff Mentality (n.)
        1. In the wild:
          1. ???
        2. In a sentence:
          1. “They have demonstrated an over-the-cliff mentality.”
        3. In my office:
          1. About a year ago, my bosses picked the two people on the team who were least respected and least liked and decided to promote them to what was essentially baby management. In the meeting in which they announced it, one of my coworkers asked what qualities they possessed that led them to be chosen. The answer that my boss gave – the only answer – was that they demonstrated an “over-the-cliff mentality.” I’m not entirely sure what he was going for there, but the only thing that I think of when I think “over the cliff” are lemmings. LEMMINGS. You know, those little rodents that follow each other off of goddamn cliffs.* Does that sound like a good quality in a leader to you? Does that sound like a person who would make an effective manager? An effective ass-kisser, maybe. You know that annoying thing know-it-alls and moms say when you talk about how you want a puppy because your friend Sally Mae has a puppy and your mom says “If Sally Mae jumped off a bridge, would you?” Well apparently, if your answer to that question is “yes,” then you’ve got a one-way ticket to middle management in a large company. Go figure.


This is just a brief glimpse into my office’s garden of bullshit. New words come into favor and old words die out, but it is a vibrant and thriving collection. What are some of the ridiculous buzzwords that your office uses?

*I know that lemmings don’t actually follow each other off of cliffs, but the caveat ruins the joke.

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