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Corporate Dictionary

by Laura W. Haywood


Associate:   The new word for employee.  Everyone who works for the company is an associate, but some are more associated than others.  (See "not- level-conscious.")

Appraisal:   The annual discussion with the boss where you learn you aren't getting a raise.

Austerity:   Bring your own bagel to the meeting.

Baldrige Award:   A quality award given to companies by the government.  Receiving it is a signal that the company's going down the toilet.

Benefits:   "I can't quit; I think I've got appendicitis."

Bonus:  What the company can't afford to pay (anyone below senior vice president) this year.

Buffet:  What sends companies down the toilet.  Forces that buffet include the winds of change, the market, and competition.  Forces that buffet never include incompetence, poor planning, or stupidity (but may include Warren).

Career Development:   You have to move sideways (take a "lateral" ) and learn to do something else; the opposite of "promotion."

Challenge:   The company has real trouble.  Replaces the word "problem," which no company ever has.

Change:   The reason we have challenges; the customers started actually expecting the damned thing to work or somebody else invented one that really does work.

Commitment:   Frequently a value.  Don't get the crazy idea you're going home at five o'clock.

Complaint Department:   Something we closed during the last Restructure.

Component:   Something that's out of stock when someone who bought the product last year needs a replacement.

Concern:   What management thinks employees have.  Concerns usually precede attempts to unionize, mass resignations, or sabotage.

Conference:   A really big meeting with a hired speaker.

Consultant: (1) A person fired by the company for incompetence who is then brought back at twice the pay to do what he or she couldn't do when employed by the company.  (2) An expert at solving problems that don't exist; after the consultant collects a fee and runs seminars or workshops for a day, the problems miraculously disappear.  (3) An expert who can identify real problems, charge enormous fees, and deliver presentations that tell you you have the problem, all right.

Continuous Improvement Team:   A cross-functional team charged with the responsibility for generating a 72-page report (with an incomprehensible executive summary) that proves a challenge is really an opportunity.

Corporate Ladder:   Something they took the rungs out of during the last restructure .

Corporate Travel:  A group of people with exotic posters on the wall who've memorized Continental Airlines' 1988 timetable -- and book your flight accordingly.

Cross-Functional Team:   A group of cranky people who know nothing about the "challenge" (which see) because it isn't in their department but who are, nevertheless, charged with solving it.

Culture:   The hallmarks of the way a company works.  Senior management thinks the culture is empowerment, recognition, and celebrations of success; workers express it this way:   "It can't be only one o'clock, it can't be, it can't be, it can't be . . . "

Culture Change:   What management is bringing about and workers know will never happen.

Delegation:   Now it's your problem -- uh, challenge.

Discrimination:   Firing anyone who isn't 35, male, and white.

Diversity:   Something all the white, 38 longs at the top profess to value.

Diversity Group:   A group of people who are all alike.

Downsizing:   From the Latin "down" meaning below senior management and the Greek "size" meaning "we won't make our numbers if we don't chop the payroll."  People who are "downsized" get a package.

Dress Code:   The way you tell a 200-pound woman not to wear shorts.  She then sues for discrimination.

Dress-Down Day:   Usually Friday.  The day the 200-pound woman wears shorts.

Employee Communications: A team of writers who help senior management send "messages" to the workers so they don't have to actually talk to them.

Employee Opinion Survey:   A booklet designed by people who were fired by the company that makes up the S.A.T.  It is intended to convince you the company cares about your opinion and to allow you to vent your hostilities so you don't start planting bombs in the Men's Room.

Empowered:   Something senior managers tell everyone else they are so that, when something goes wrong, it isn't senior management's fault.

Executive Response Center:   The clerk you talk to (or get a letter from) when you contact the office of the chairman. 

Fast Track:   What you're not on.

Fear of Reprisal:   The boss can fire people but people aren't supposed to be afraid he or she will.  Consultants (which see) love this one.

Forecast:  Some committee's guess about how many we'll sell, how many we need to buy, or what Alan Greenspan is going to do next.

Former Chairman:   A nonperson whose name is never mentioned.

Human Resources:   An organization that exists to prevent managers from hiring the people they want to, manages the process of making sure no one is promoted, analyzes statistics to prove that the salary you're making (on which you can't live) is higher than you could get anywhere else, attempts to persuade you this is a great place to work, mandates you sign up for a certain number of hours of training (which you never take, because the "needs of the business" -- which see -- require your presence at your desk), and creatively expands the English language (i.e., secretaries are "administrative assistants" and jobs are "role positions").

"Incent":   (v.)  Something that managers are supposed to do to make the workers want to work harder for no more money or customers want to buy the product.

Job Security:   What management tells workers it can't promise.  See loyalty and skill set.

Just-In-Time (JIT):   A Japanese idea where everything you need arrives at the split-second when you need it (or two weeks later, because there were floods in Chicago).

Lateral:   A career move that keeps you at the same level, but allows you to do work you know absolutely nothing about.

Launch:   I shot a product in the air.  It fell to earth, I know not where.

Loyalty:   What management bemoans the loss of (see job security).

Lunch Hour:   A 30-minute period in the middle of the day.

Managed Care:   The cut-rate doctors the company will pay for.

Managing your career:   If you don't get promoted (and you won't), it's your own fault.

Marketing:   An organization of well-paid people charged with the responsibility of creating junk mail.

Media Relations:   The organization to blame when some reporter finds out the truth.

Memo:   Something you write to a co-worker to (1) make it his or her problem and (2) show that when it went wrong, it wasn't your responsibility (if it happens to go right, you use the memo to prove you were part of the team).

Meeting:  What you spend most of the day in; not to be confused with deep doodoo.

Middle manager:   Somebody who doesn't get overtime, regardless of the hours worked, and whose authority is limited to decisions on the placement of paper clips.

Needs of the business:   The reason why you can't take your vacation the week the cruise ship you've been booked on for a year (non-refundable) sails.

Negotiate:   What your boss wants you to do to convince some idiot with twice your clout to do something he or she is never going to do.

Niche market:   A very small group of people with something in common who can't afford to buy anything or don't speak English; Marketing Managers are constantly looking for them so they can send more junk mail (in English).

Not-level-conscious:   You'll never have lunch with a vice president.

Off-site meeting:   Something senior managers have at expensive resorts to discuss austerity budgets.

On-the-job injury:   One of two ways out that doesn't lead to homelessness; the other is winning the lottery.

On-the-job training:   Tossing new employees to the wolves.

Opportunity:   Hey, so it's crazy -- at least we haven't tried it yet!

Outsource:   Pay someone else to do unpleasant things such as actually talk to customers; the outsourcer uses a VRU (which see) as often as possible.

Package:   What the company pays people who are downsized to go quietly.  Not to be confused with packaging, which involves putting six ounces of something in a box that could hold 26 ounces and charging for the box.

Paying Your Dues:   For workers, refers to money given to a union.  For lower and middle management, refers to acquiring certain skills and not screwing up too badly in a variety of departments.  A prerequisite for moving on to the next level.  You have to do it, but they'll close the club anyway.

Payroll Department:   A group of people in another time zone who know 422 ways to screw up your paycheck.

Pension:   Something you're fired two months before you're eligible for.

Personal Life:   No definition available.

Policy:   The thing that lets you be rude to customers (as in, "That's not      our . . . ").

Proactive:   Literally, an impediment to learning.  Used as the opposite of reactive, meaning good at guessing how the boss "prioritizes" .

"Prioritize":   Corpo-babble for "set priorities" -- i.e., what the boss wants next. 

Promotion:   Trying to make an unattractive product appealing by giving away other unattractive products with it or cutting the price (see rebate).  This word never refers to climbing the "corporate ladder" .

Quality of Work Life (QWL):   The ability to balance work and your personal life (which see).  Your company has a committee (team) to work on QWL concerns .

Rebate:   What you give in lieu of lowering prices; not to be confused under any circumstances with "kickback."

Recognition:   Somebody gives you a plaque for not screwing up; team players (which see) tell everyone they don't deserve it because the team did the work, but they still hang it on the wall.

Reorganization:   A corporate exercise designed to make you grateful for being transferred into a job that's even worse than the one you had before.

Restructure:   Heads are going to roll and then we're going to do everything the same way we did it before, but call it by different names.

Secretary:   What nobody is anymore except on "Secretary's Day."  The rest of the year, they're administrative assistants or executive assistants.

Security:  A group of people in uniforms who are fixated on badges. 

Sense of urgency:   See commitment.

Skill set:   Something you're supposed to have and keep current through training (which see).  Yours usually consists of (1) a general idea how to do what you're supposed to be doing now and (2) the ability to say, "Do you want fries with that, Sir?"

Solutions:    What trendy bosses want ("Bring me solutions, not problems").   This ignores the fact that, if you had a solution you'd, (1) be the boss or (2) never have gone to him or her in the first place.

Strategy:  a word management uses to make the workers think the situation isn't as bad as they know it is and to persuade them management knows what it's doing despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Support: (1) Secretaries and gofers; called "support staff."  (2) Your boss.  In current parlance, you don't report to your boss; he or she "supports" you (whenever you can find him or her).

Systems:   Things which keep going down. 

Systems Help Desk:   An invisible team of people who, when systems go down, tell you over the phone to reboot.

Team Player:   Someone who, when a decision is made by a committee, acts as though God Himself handed down the verdict, never says unpleasant things, never voices controversial thoughts, never has controversial thoughts, and, in fact, never thinks.

Teamwork:   The acts of (1) checking your brain at the door, (2) attending a lot of meetings (which see), and (3) staying awake at them.   Very valuable because credit is shared sometimes, but blame is spread over a wide base.  "Nobody was driving, Officer; we were all attending a team meeting."

Training:   Something you sign up for but never actually take due to the "needs of the business" .

Turmoil: What the marketplace is in when the company isn't making a profit.

Upward feedback:   A process in which you try to find something nice you can say about the boss without throwing up.

Value Added:   We buy it wholesale, sell it retail, and charge customers more than we paid for it as a fee for keeping it in our warehouse.  Sometimes we put it in a box, for which we charge (see package).

Values:   Corporate buzzwords that senior management talks about a great deal and the workers are supposed to "live."

VRU:   Literally, Voice Response System.  A way to avoid talking to customers.

Warrantee:  By gosh, it covers everything but that.


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