html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Two catchphrases I can't stand.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Two catchphrases I can't stand.

That's not a challenge, that's a problem.
I hated the euphemism "challenge" the first time I heard it, and I hate it worse when people use it as manager-speak (which they learned in useless business school classes). I've always thought that problems come to you, and you have to solve them or avoid them or do whatever you do. Either way, they're yours and they aren't optional. Challenges are something you choose to do; if you ignore them, they'll ignore you. I have no objection to solving problems, and I'm happy to ignore challenges sometimes. Let's keep them separate.

I don't want to share things with you either.
Look, I'll tell you whatever you ask. But how are we going to share a piece of information or a description of an experience? We can both have it simultaneously, sure. But we aren't sharing it. Besides, sharing a non-rivalrous good is pretty stingy on the giver's part. Second besides, one of my three bosses sometimes shares things like assignments; those are more properly orders which I'll get to when I'm done talking to you.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Mike Jenkins said...

catchphrase has 6 consecutive consonants.

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

I'm with you on the "challenge" euphemism It is often just manipulation to motivate another to want to execute an order, and it seems to me it's often employed as the lowest form of management instead of actually engaging with another person and coming to an agreement on What Is To Be Done in the collective sense. It's better to call a situation what it is: a problem may be a situation one (or the organization) wishes to avoid or mitigate; a challenge might be avoidable but might appear to exceed one's resources and dealing with it has positive payoffs beyond the avoidance of the consequences of inaction. If a team effort is required, one can not manufacture loyalty or commitment, and calling something a "challenge" is just insulting to the willing or unwilling participants. Each person has to see for themselves whether the situation is worth the effort, and must be treated with respect for their contribution and thus given the necessary information to make their own decision to participate and make sacrifices. If dealing with it isn't part of one's job description or responsibility in the first place, tricking them into it is not going to contribute to a good process or positive outcome, and people will remember the manipulation the next time around.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Abby said...

I agree on hating the challenge euphemism, too! I've had to learn to use it though in my work. It continues to amaze me that one is NOT ALLOWED to use negative language of any sort when referring even tangentially to people who make 6+ figures (and particularly those who make 7+ figures) annually.

In their world, gang violence is a problem, but corporate fraud is a challenge for your accountant to reshape into something clever.

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Melanie's brother said...

OK, let's try this one on...

There is power in knowledge. If you tell someone something important, you are diminishing your relative power and increasing theirs. In that sense, you are sharing that knowledge. In fact, having given this about 6 seconds of thought, it seems this agrees with the way people use the word. They share secrets but not, say, what the capital city of Australia is (which city is, in every respect, so totally the Sacramento of Australia).

Marginal Revolution, here I come.

2:00 AM  
Anonymous thelonious_nick said...

Wow, faddish corporate speak. I too hate being challenged at work when I'd rather just solve a problem. I also have learned to hate synergy.

Also, ethics. I really despite the corporate ethics courses I have to take an annual basis in which ethics means no more or less than "follow the letter of the law so we don't get in trouble." Mechanistic legalism is not the same as ethics, and in some cases is the exact opposite.

6:56 AM  

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