Entrepreneurs

5 Business Expressions that Actually Mean the Exact Opposite

The odd thing about corporate-speak (a.k.a. biz-blab) is that it sometimes means the exact opposite of what the words in an expression literally mean. Five examples:

1. “You have unlimited vacation days”

Translation: “You have no vacation days.”  While you theoretically can take days off, actually doing so will be taken as proof that you’re not really essential. If you acquire enough clout to vacation without risking this, you must promise not to go anywhere that lacks a good Internet connection.

2. “Your participation is voluntary”

Translation: “Your participation is mandatory.” This is a simple test of your loyalty to the company, your specific organization, and/or your boss, So, for example, if you’re asked to donate to the boss’s favorite charity, you’d better cough up some dough because, if you don’t, you obviously aren’t a true “team player.” You’ll find out exactly what that means during your next salary review, if you make it that far.

3. “We value diversity/the environment/work-life balance”

Translation: “We value the status quo.” These are all perfect examples of the law of inverse relevance–“the less you plan to do about something, the more you must talk about it.” So-called “conversations” about these issues create plausible deniability, which is why, for example, after decades of “diversity training,” only 7.5% of the Fortune 500’s CEOs are female.

4. “There are no layoffs planned at this time.”

Translation: “Layoffs are imminent.” Any company stupid enough to announce that there will definitely be layoffs in the future, learns very quickly that they will lose their most talented employees, who will immediately start looking for another job and probably get one right away. Well, the mediocre well hang on for dear life, propelling the company into a tailspin. It is therefore in the interest of management to keep layoffs a secret until the very day they are actually announced.

5. “We are one big happy family”

Translation: “We are one big dysfunctional family.” If you go to work for a company that makes this all-too-common claim, be aware that you will be regularly spanked, if only metaphorically.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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