People Matters PM April 2022

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The road less travelled

Once one has an implementable programme or process that has to be communicated to the leader or general employee, jargon can only get in the way HR is necessary to prevent internecine or idle rumours from flowing into the information space. The media HR can use are many and justify a study in themselves. For the present we shall summarise with: No man is the lord of any thing, Though in and of him there be much consisting, Till he communicate his parts to others.4

Double Speak

While the costs of noncommunication by HR are high, they pale in comparison to the damage disin68

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genuous communication can cause. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln: 'Better to remain silent and have one’s credibility questioned than to speak and to remove all doubt!' If we were to run a poll of what employee-customers hate the most about HR, its proclivity for speaking from both sides of its face would win hands down. Employees know that most HR people have above average command over language, hence they suspect other causes when messages from HR are confusing or ambiguous. "The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.

When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink."5 A single word to describe this whole range of hypocritical communication styles is Doublespeak and HR is a master of it. "Doublespeak is a language which pretends to communicate but really does not. It is language which makes the bad seem good, something negative appears positive, something unpleasant appears attractive, or at least tolerable. It is language which avoids or shifts responsibility; language which is at variance with its real and its purported meaning; language which conceals or prevents thought."6 Broadly, there are three ways in which language can be twisted into Doublespeak. These are: 1. Euphemisms 2. Jargon and Bureaucratese 3. Inflated language Of course, each of these has justifiable uses in, for instance and respectively, minimising pain during traumatic events, specifying a procedure precisely or creating dramatic impact in an advertisement. Here, however, we are examining their misuse. Substituting euphemisms such as 'rightsizing' for