Have you ever noticed how buzzwords come and go? They must be among the fastest evolving words in English – and with good reason, given that most of them are vacuous attempts to hide one thing by couching it as another.
Back in the 1980s the in-word in New Zealand was ‘corporate’, particularly in government departments where the word was used as an end in itself. Everything suddenly got the word appended to it – ‘corporate affairs’ instead of ‘public relations’, ‘corporate plan’ instead of ‘annual plan’ and so on. Even annual reports vanished in favour of – well, you’ve guessed it – ‘corporate reports’. Were these government offices actually commercial corporates? Uh… no. And did the word make the slightest difference to behaviours? Uh,.,., no.
A year or so later the word ‘corporate’ went out of favour and was replaced by ‘management’. Everything was suddenly ‘managed’, although nobody actually seemed to know what that involved. Still, there was so much ‘management’ about that trucks were deployed to take away all the management going to waste. Well, I think that’s what the name ‘waste management’ on the side of them referred to anyway.
Did that mean that everything was actually ‘managed’, when it hadn’t been before? Um… again, no.
By the early 1990s that had extended to staff. Employees were no longer people; they were a ‘human resource’. These ‘human resources’ were then organised around the next in-buzzword, ‘team’, in which diverse employees who had nothing in common were pushed together in groups and made to fly around offices like geese in formation, randomly honking on others.
I could go on. To me the whole phenomenon underscores the amazing ability humans have to pretend one thing is another, even when it isn’t, often in order to assert power over others.
And oddly enough, the next buzzword after ‘management’ had done its dash was – well, you’ve guessed it. Power. That was the 1990s for you.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2018