Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. VicesAndSpices

    VicesAndSpices Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2022
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    38

    The Corporate/Professional Language Translator

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by VicesAndSpices, May 31, 2022.

    I am 24 years old and started my very first Big Girl Job within the last six months. Without giving away too many details about my workplace, it's a very corporate environment and about 90% of my interactions are with people 2-3 generations older than me. I just recently got back my first performance review to wrap up my probationary period, and its biggest critique was that I am not professional enough in my communications. So, I figured I'd ask my writing buddies over here on WF to help me out. Thus, I am creating a thread where I can put what I want to say, and one of you can translate it into the professional corporate speech appropriate for my job.

    To start, how do I tell someone "You're being extra. Just pick one."?
     
  2. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    4,771
    Likes Received:
    5,509
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    I must be getting old. "Being extra"?
     
    SapereAude likes this.
  3. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2021
    Messages:
    1,231
    Likes Received:
    852
    I don't understand it either without any other context. So you mean someone is being very picky or indecisive about some project decision, proposal, or location?
     
  4. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2021
    Messages:
    1,717
    Likes Received:
    1,354
    I share Naomasa298's confusion. I have no idea what that might possibly mean.

    Let's break it down. The statement consists of two short sentences. The first sentence tells the listener/recipient that they are extra (extraneous/unnecessary/superfluous). The second sentence instructs the "extra" person to "Just pick one."

    Pick one of what? Aside from the second statement carrying no recognizable relationship to the first, you have provided no list of any things from which to pick one.

    I'm 78 years old, so I am a certified olde pharte. Especially in business, we olde phartes tend to think linearly; we don't make quantum leaps in thinking without there being a logical path for getting from point A to point G. We need to see B, C, D, E, and F, and how the subject logically progresses through them.

    When I was in college as an undergraduate (shortly after the signing of the Magna Carta), I took a course titled Advanced Expository Writing. I believe it was that course where it was stressed that, while communication requires a minimum of two parties (i.e. a "sender" and at least one "recipient"), responsibility for clear communication lies 90 percent with the sender. It is the speaker's/writer's primary responsibility to convey their message in terms and in ways that the audience can not only receive it but also understand it.

    This is why, for example, training manuals for the United States military are to be written at an eighth grade level of reading comprehension. Many Army recruits are recent high school graduates, and many high school graduates today (unfortunately) do not read anywhere near a 12th grade level of comprehension. So the manuals are written to the level that a majority of recruits will be able to understand.

    That can be difficult for people like me, because I grew up in a family that tended to use big words. It's a real challenge for me to write at an eighth grade level.

    Based on this first question (and, admittedly, extrapolating wildly), I'm going to guess that at least part of your difficulty is communicating in a logical, linear fashion.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2022
  5. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Honorary Unicorn Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Messages:
    3,438
    Likes Received:
    7,065
    I need context. This (the rewrite) can go many ways
    (When i started my job at 24, i was the youngest on staff... So i totally understand)
     
  6. VicesAndSpices

    VicesAndSpices Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2022
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    38
    I didn't want to give away too many details of the scenario hence the lack of context. My bad. The gist is that I needed someone to choose something so we could move forward with a project. Instead, they sent me 7 new ideas. And "being extra" is just that: you're doing too much. So I wanted to email them "You're being extra. Just pick one."
     
  7. Catriona Grace

    Catriona Grace Slaint—ź mhaith Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2021
    Messages:
    4,396
    Likes Received:
    3,775
    "Great ideas. Choose the best one, and we'll go ahead with the project."
     
  8. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Honorary Unicorn Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Messages:
    3,438
    Likes Received:
    7,065
    Unfortunately, you have to code switch in the workplace...
    Instead of saying "you/you're" (which can be accusative and "hostile" in this context), you have to make it general and use "I" as much as possible:
    "Thank you for the additional suggestions, I will keep those in mind. Please choose from the ideas provided [OR: i am trying to narrow down the ideas provided]."

    (Then vent about it in private :p)

    The one time i used casual language with a coworker, she looked at me like i grew a second head and was telling everyone how "urban" i sounded.
    (All i said was, "sorry, im not about that life, bruh")
     
  9. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Honorary Unicorn Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Messages:
    3,438
    Likes Received:
    7,065
    I can already see someone choosing an idea that the OP did not provide or going off on more tangents
     
    Catriona Grace likes this.
  10. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Comparativist Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2015
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    1,385
    Location:
    USA
    This sort of thing can be very context-dependent, but having worked for many years in an environment similar to what you describe, my first piece of advice would be to not just tell them what to do. They won't take it well. Their egos are too big to allow them to be told what to do, especially by somebody younger. I hate that that's the way it is, and of course I don't know your situation exactly but I'm pretty confident in that advice.

    My second piece of advice, then, would be to try and get them to do what you want without coming out and saying what it is. This generally means over-writing your message and taking a lot more words to say the same thing, which I know goes against every rule of good writing. But what you want to do is drop a whole bunch of hints which will let them feel like they've figured it out for themselves.

    To get into any more detail than that I'd need to know more about the particulars of the situation, but some things to consider:

    1) Is there an authority to appeal to? Can you say something like "I know this is annoying, but we have to make this decision by X date because [Y regulation\Z authority figure\whatever] says so"
    2) Can you respond to them with a question? Usually those are harmless. Something like "Thanks for your input, do you know who I can go to and get this finalized?"
    3) If you're feeling bold you can try suggesting one of the options to go with, and see if they agree. From the way you describe the situation, I think they are trying to diffuse responsibility, which means if they feel like someone else besides them has made the decision it might make them feel better. Of course the risk of this is it could come back to haunt you if it turns out to be the wrong decision.

    I think if I have a professional weakness it's that I'm sometimes too subtle about getting the message across and overexplain things. So my last piece of advice is: don't take any one person's advice, but try and get a bunch of different takes. There's really no one right way to do things. Like I just saw @J.T. Woody 's post about code switching and those are all good points too.

    Anyway I wish you all the luck. I well remember being thrown in the deep end as a new guy at one of these places and...well, not to scare you but the experience stuck with me enough that now I make it my life's mission to try and stop it happening to anyone else lmao
     
    VicesAndSpices and J.T. Woody like this.
  11. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2021
    Messages:
    1,231
    Likes Received:
    852
    First, remember that not everything is suitable for an email. Sometimes a phone call or meeting may be needed.

    Second, I'd avoid any slang or informal wording in a corporate email.

    I don't know your exact work environment, but I probably would have done something like this (if I just didn't call the person):

    Several of the ideas are good and would be suitable, but we will be behind schedule when we move to the Planning phase if a selection isn't made soon. My recommendation is to to move forward with the one you've identified as the most promising.

    If narrowing it down to one is difficult, I can create a Solution Selection Matrix we can fill out to aid in the process.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2022
    VicesAndSpices and GingerCoffee like this.
  12. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    4,771
    Likes Received:
    5,509
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    Part of it depends on how well you know your co-workers. I know mine pretty well, but I wouldn't communicate the same way with them as, say, with a client.

    I'd probably just say "If you let me know your preferred option, we can proceed (to the next stage of/with)* the project".

    *Delete as applicable.

    Some people might regards that as being a little abrupt though. As everyone has said, it all depends on context.
     
    ABeaujolais likes this.
  13. VicesAndSpices

    VicesAndSpices Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2022
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    38
    Remember that Bernie Sanders meme that said "I am once again asking for..."? I made one relevant to something I'd repeatedly asked for internally and sent it in a work chat. It did not the response I expected because I had not considered that none of my 40+ coworkers had ever seen that meme before...

    This was like reading a really accurate horoscope. It's just a little too true for comfort.

    Unfortunately, the person I needed this from was a client. I'm very comfortable with most of my coworkers and probably would've emailed them "dude, just pick one," but this was a client that I have to be really nice to, and clearly I haven't quite figured out how to do that.
     
    Robert Musil and J.T. Woody like this.
  14. VicesAndSpices

    VicesAndSpices Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2022
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    38
    Also, THANK YOU for being the kind of person I wish I worked with. *sigh* Day jobs are hard.
     
  15. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2021
    Messages:
    1,231
    Likes Received:
    852
    Personally, I'd avoid memes even in work related chats. Part of that is because I avoid anything that might have even a 1% chance of offending someone, but also, if the person doesn't know me, they may suspect I don't take the work seriously.

    I'm kind of cynical.
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  16. ABeaujolais

    ABeaujolais Member

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2021
    Messages:
    55
    Likes Received:
    65
    Corporations are as different as people. There is no one set of characteristics. Translating to corporate speech completely depends on the particular corporation. Dealing with people three generations older is going to be much different from a workplace staffed by 20- or 30-something employees.

    Half way through my career the small family-owned business I worked for was bought by a multi-billion dollar international corporation. I literally went from being Employee #2 to Employee #50,982. I also had hard growing pains communicating in the new corporation, which were reflected in periodic reviews. I started out doing what I'd been doing with the first company where the culture was to be brutally honest, sometimes including sarcasm to make a point about stupid that should be avoided. The new company dinged me on reviews for not being more positive when collaborating with colleagues. I was venting to a friend who ripped me up one side and down the other, since he was out of work and resented me complaining about my good paying steady job. I took it to heart and dedicated myself to learning the corporate culture where I was. Unfortunately fitting in to this particular culture meant giving up on quest for superior quality, and instead providing happy talk, which I did. My life immediately became less stressful. I shook my head at my first review that stated I was finally getting it and was improving my communication. It was much easier and more productive to practice blowing smoke up butts.

    I moved to a startup corporation that had a culture similar to my first company. Brutal honesty was demanded, along with spirited discussions and a drive toward superior quality. Anyone who blew smoke was booed and hissed at. We took back half the market from the gargantuan corporation within four years, and locked in three-fourths of the market within six years. Corporate speak was completely different in the different companies.
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  17. VicesAndSpices

    VicesAndSpices Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2022
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    38
    This thread has been super helpful and very validating...but in a bit of an unfortunate way. It's nice to hear that so many other people had "growing pains" with professional communications when newly entering a corporate environment, but it makes me even more frustrated that we have to adapt to this nonsense! Clearly, professionalism isn't human nature, and we'd all rather just say the truth, but we're all out here trying to survive late-stage capitalism by blowing smoke up asses and faking politeness. What sucks is that I actually really like my job, but I can only do it if I'm walking on eggshells the entire time, and it makes it way less fun.

    Maybe I should've posted this in the Not Happy thread. Or the Things that annoy me but shouldn't thread. Anyway, anybody wanna take a crack at translating this angry rant into corporate speech? Maybe I'll send it to my boss :supercheeky:
     
    Some Guy and J.T. Woody like this.
  18. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Comparativist Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2015
    Messages:
    1,219
    Likes Received:
    1,385
    Location:
    USA
    "Can we set up a call to discuss?"

    [would be my inevitable written reply, after taking an hour to draft an intricate five-paragraph essay and then deleting it]
     
    VicesAndSpices and GingerCoffee like this.
  19. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Honorary Unicorn Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Messages:
    3,438
    Likes Received:
    7,065
    definitely dont say anything while frustrated (wait until initial frustration passes!)

    in the moment, my annoyance and frustration go to me in a meeting (with my boss and other people). what i SAID was relevant, justifiable, and understandable. HOW i said it..... was not the best, even though i feel he deserved it :wtf:.
    my boss was scared. he walked around saying "im glad i had witnesses!".... like tiny ole me intimidated him so much he feared for his safety (rolls eyes)
    and my coworker (who has become my "work big sister") laughs about it saying "remind me not to get on your bad side" because i am usually the meek, agreeable, and quiet one.

    we had a mini meeting to discuss it.... and he was nervous the entire time :rofl:
     
    Some Guy and VicesAndSpices like this.
  20. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    4,771
    Likes Received:
    5,509
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    I would still go with "Can you let me know your preference, and we'll get the project underway." or something similar. It again depends how obsequious you need to be to the client - and that varies from client to client.
     
  21. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2021
    Messages:
    1,717
    Likes Received:
    1,354
    Communicating clearly is, to most people, "professional." Corporate politics/human relations may dictate that the truth must be presented in a nuanced fashion in order to avoid ruffling feathers but, even then, a degree of clarity is generally required.

    Where is the clarity in "You're being extra"?

    I don't mean to hurt your feelings, but I think I need to be blunt to get this across because multiple people here have stated that they didn't understand the statement, and I will say that your explanation didn't help. To be blunt, what the hell does "You're being extra" mean? I have been exposed to a lot of technical jargon in my time on this planet, I have been exposed to a lot of corporate double-speak (i.e. gibberish), and I cannot figure out what that means. In your post above, you wrote:

    My only response to that has to be, "Huh? Say WHAAAAT?" Apparently to you "being extra" means "doing too much." That's not a meaning for the word "extra" that you'll find in any dictionary or thesaurus. Remember: the responsibility for clarity in communication lies 90 percent with the sender. Of course, the recipient has to at least try to understand what he/she is receiving, but the sender has to at least provide content that is capable of being understood by **most** people at a level of education and experience equal to the intended recipient. I respectfully submit that I don't think "You're being extra" is capable of being understood by anyone (other than yourself) to mean what you said you wished to convey.

    If you wanted to say "You're doing too much," why not just say that? That's clear and concise.

    Going beyond that -- now that we know this was a communication to a client rather than to a co-worker or superior -- in the corporate world consultants (especially rookie consultants with less than a year of work experience) do NOT tell clients what to do. That's what they're paying you (or your company) for. If I understood what you wrote in post #6 correctly, you or your company submitted something (a design? a prototype? an idea?) to a client for approval and, rather than approving the submittal or selecting from several ideas you submitted, they responded by proposing seven new ideas.

    Don't let that be frustrating. If you do, you are in the wrong career. That's part of "brainstorming." Very few great ideas or great designs pop into existence full-blown and completely fleshed out. Much more often, someone has an idea. That person discusses it with some other people, who offer their thoughts. A revised design evolves out of synthesizing the new ideas into the design. Maybe that's the team at your company. Now you submit the design to the client (who is, after all, the entity that's paying for this), and the design isn't quite what they wanted or expected ... so they respond with some additional thoughts, ideas, and suggestions. That's natural and normal. The next step is for your team to take the new ideas and see how they can be applied to the design. Some of the new ideas may work better than others. Be prepared to explain which ones work and which don't -- and why. If you and your team don't like some of the new ideas, do a version of the design with those ideas anyway ... incorporated in the worst possible way, in order to showcase how and why they're not appropriate. Then present the version(s) that use the best two or three of the new suggestions, perhaps make a recommendation as to which you prefer (and why), and then ask the client to select the one they like best out of the two or three that you recommend.
     
    Naomasa298 likes this.
  22. SapereAude

    SapereAude Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2021
    Messages:
    1,717
    Likes Received:
    1,354
    To be candid -- no. I pay little attention to politicians, and I paid zero attention to Bernie Sanders. I think it's a serious mistake to think that anyone in a corporate setting is going to remember what any politician said about anything, and it's certainly a mistake to think that anyone in a corporate setting will recognize a meme.
     
  23. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    18,386
    Likes Received:
    7,079
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    "You're being extra" suggests to me English is not your first language. Not that your English skills aren't very good, they obviously are, but it might be one source of the problem.

    Edited to add, if it is a DC colloquialism that also explains it.

    A very good suggestion here is Catriona Grace: "Great ideas. Choose the best one, and we'll go ahead with the project." Anything that starts with a compliment before saying what you need or want to say is always a good option.

    "You're being extra", now that we know what it means, is negative. It's a complaint, not a compliment. Keep that in mind.

    Also as Bruce Johnson said, avoid memes and slang. I'll add to also avoid jokes until you've been there a while and have gotten to know your coworkers and a bit more about the clientele. Those can look unprofessional in any formal work setting.

    And a meme that involves Bernie Sanders is political one way or the other. I know my coworkers very well and I still avoid politics and anything controversial like gun control. You never know what their politics and views on controversial subjects are and you might come off as annoying or worse.

    Exceptions: Of course there are times when some controversy is necessary to discuss. For example in my job I have to talk about COVID 19 restrictions and vaccinations because it's what I do. But I step very lightly blaming a person's political POVs for their resistance to infection control measures.

    I'm not sure why you are afraid to tell us what you do. I don't think anyone will judge you. It might help us make the best suggestions for your communication questions.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2022
    Catriona Grace likes this.
  24. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Honorary Unicorn Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Messages:
    3,438
    Likes Received:
    7,065
    (Dont worry, OP, i get it:p. It's used widely in DC...where im from also.... And also used in certain circles of a certain age where i currently live. While i agree with Aude about it not being the most direct and not understandable to people over a certain age, i disagree with it being only understandable to you. SapereAude, ping back to the "regional" thread.... This is one of those things that belong there, as it truly is a regional thing)
     
    VicesAndSpices likes this.
  25. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    4,771
    Likes Received:
    5,509
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    However, that highligts an important point. This is an international forum, as well as having people from all over the US. You have to make sure you tailor your language to your audience to make it understandable.

    If I said I was going to have a fag after dinner, some people might assume I was going to do something involving a person of a certain persuasion after my evening meal, as opposed to having a cigarette after my afternoon meal.
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice