Management Speak — or Admitting You Don't Know is Hard to Do

 

Every so often, I hear managers say things they vowed they’d never say when they were technical contributors. (Yeah, parents do that too, but that’s not the topic today 🙂 Here are a few of my favorites with their translations:

  • “We have expertise in that area.” Translation: We have no idea what you’re talking about, never mind any experience in this. In fact we have no idea what your product is, what it needs, who the users are, or anything else. We are clueless.
  • “You shouldn’t want that.” Translation: This is the most important feature for the product, the project, the process, the event, whatever. But since I don’t know this is most important, I will tell you not to want it.
  • “Don’t care so much.” Translation: I don’t care, so why are you all up in arms about this event? What do you know that I don’t know?

I’m really not cynical — but it’s hard to tell from my translations. Managers, whether they are project managers or functional managers, fall into management speak because they can’t admit they don’t know. Admitting you don’t know, especially as a manager, is impossible for some managers, just difficult for others. As long as we remember the company pays managers to make good decisions, not be omnipotent, we’ll be able to admit we don’t know.

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