Commentary 12 Feb 2010 07:44 am

Talk like a boss

Here is this week’s column, dated Feb. 11, 2009.

To make extra money this year, I am offering a class for busy, wannabe executives called Corporate Conversation.

No longer will eager company cadets need to travel to some out-of-the-way Swiss chateau to learn the language of the executive up-and-comer, a tongue steeped in backpedaling, equivocation and disingenuous commentary, as slippery as half a dozen eels slithering over an icy lake.

Instruction in this oily idiom is now available locally, through one-on-one meetings with the instructor (me) or via easily downloadable computer lessons. The main tenant of Corporate Conversation is simply this: Never give an easy answer when a longer, less-definitive option exists.

For instance, why say yes or no to a subordinate (or “plebeian,” as my exclusive, Boardroom Banter lexicon calls the typical worker) asking for a raise when you could say instead, “I will take the matter under advisement, and run it past the next meeting of the Associate Remunerative Committee, scheduled for the vernal equinox in 2011.”

The average worker, when faced with such a response, will either a) salaam slowly out of the office, fearing the thought of such a committee and wondering what the heck “remunerative” means, or b) feel so honored that his or her productivity will increase for the next year, giving you 12 months to find a suitable replacement.

Executives who fear they may not be intelligent enough to master the intricacies of Corporate Speak (and research indicates that most management types have the brainpower of the average legume) need not worry: My patent-pending program uses only a handful of Power Phrases, suitable for the majority of employer/employee interactions.

They are: “I will take it under advisement,” “sounds like a win/win,” “let me ponder the ramifications and get back to you,” “you need an immediate paradigm shift,” “this will give you an opportunity to expand your horizons,” and “The prevailing wind happens to be from Vichy.”

Oh, wait, the last one is from “Casablanca.” Scratch that.

Let me illustrate some of the Power Phrases in action:

“Boss, this new plan of yours is going to bury us in unnecessary paperwork, destroy employee morale, and cut productivity in half.”

“You need an immediate paradigm shift.”

“Boss, you’re firing me?”

“This will give you an opportunity to expand your horizons.”

“Boss, why does our workload get heavier and heavier, while yours gets lighter and lighter?”

“Sounds like a win/win.”

“Boss, Frankie just crushed his pelvis in a vice. He’s bleedin’ all over the shop. We need to get an ambulance in here!”

“Let me ponder the ramifications and get back to you.”

By mixing and matching the Power Phrases like clothes on a Barbie doll, the industrious executive can create dozens of responses that sound good but are as devoid of meaning as a Diet Coke is of calories. For instance:

“Boss, I can’t believe you’re outsourcing our jobs and moving the business to Taiwan!”

“This win/win will give you the opportunity to ponder an immediate paradigm shift.” (My exclusive CYA training will teach you how to enunciate such tripe while dialing for security backup simultaneously.)

For those who believe management must consist of more than a few stock phrases uttered over and over — you’re wrong. No, just kidding. My course will also offer exclusive training in this vital component: The Glassy Stare, the far-off look that comes over the boss’s face when a plebeian offers a suggestion that is better than anything management has ever come up with. (This happens constantly, but with my training, you will soon learn how not only to ignore such suggestions, but actually not realize they have merit.)

Best of all, you can have it all — the Corporate Conversation, Boardroom Banter, Power Phrases, Glassy Stare, and CYA training — for one low price, less than you probably paid for your last back massage, but just enough to cover my kid’s tuition for another semester.

To learn more, just wire a wad of cash directly to my bank account. It’s the one with the negative balance.

One Response to “Talk like a boss”

  1. on 12 Feb 2010 at 1.Cassandra Dalton said …

    Wow! You should take over for Mr. Kukura’s business class.

    But I’ll let you ponder the ramifications of that first.

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