by The Inmate
. . . prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.
I received the following memo in my box this week. I have underlined the corporatespeak phrases:
To: My Friends at Cheetah Express
Fr: John James
In case you were not aware, I have resigned from Cheetah Express to accept a position with another company. The decision to leave was not an easy one. I took a vacation in order to gain an objective mindset and the process lead[sic] me to the conclusion it was in my best interest to pursue this new opportunity.
Over my six and a half[sic] years here I have not encountered anyone who was not a professional—I haven’t regretted any relationships I have developed in my time here.I am proud to have been associated with all of you and count it a privilege to have worked with those of you that I had the opportunity to work with.I will miss you.
You should all be proud of what you have accomplished and in the direction in which this station is headed.
Take care and God bless you all!
John James[not his real name]
It’s good that John has found a job that he considers better than the one he had. His letter, however, is trivial and meaningless. Do these guys go to the same seminars to write this tripe? Maybe the problem is that they paraphrase resignation letters that they have received which were also paraphrased from other letters which were also paraphrased in a long line back to that first resignation letter which probably had some real meaning to it. Its descendants, however, are like overly diluted orange juice–it’s just cloudy water.
Resignation letters are appropriate, but they should be significant, not hollow. This one has every cliché in the book (cliché intended) and didn’t mean a thing to me except that I thought it would be good subject matter for The Corporate Asylum. I wish people would be honest–not necessarily in a brutal way, but at least in way that would give their letters, regardless of the occasion, some credibility.
It is an impossibility that John did not encounter one unprofessional person in six-and-a-half years at Cheetah Express. So why write it? Why perpetuate corporatespeak? If John really believes that then clearly he is not perceptive. He lacks discernment. If he doesn’t, then he’s a liar. Most likely he did not think about it. It was as natural for him to write a letter like that as it is for male dogs to mark their yards.
The insidious thing about corporatespeak is how unconsciously it spews forth from the mouths of those who use it. It thinks for them. The memo was addressed to “My Friends . . .” and distributed to every person at our station. This is not meant to be offensive, but John is not my friend, nor does he consider me his friend. Why would he? I have never, in six-and-a-half years, seen him outside of work on a social basis. I have never called him. He has never called me. We have never had a conversation of the kind that friends have: intimate, meaningful, vulnerable and comfortable. I will never see him again(fortune permitting); I will never attempt to see him again. This is not a bad thing–all of us have relationships of this kind where we work. Why, however, degrade friendship by using “Friends” in this way? If John truly considers me his friend he needs to quit his next job, move to the desert, study the stars and plead for enlightenment(maybe we should all do this).
Someday I’d like see a resignation letter like this:
To: My co-workers
Fr: Harold Johnson(I’m the tall, bald guy)
I’m leaving Cheetah Express. Many of you, I realize, hardly know me so please, if you are not interested in my life, simply discard this into the nearest trash can like you do most company memos. I won’t be offended.
My 12 years here have been some of the worst and best of my professional career. I have worked with people who were lazy, self-centered and incompetent, but thanks to some of you who are hard-working, witty and humorous, I survived these other individuals with minimal scars.
I have been restless the last couple of years partly because I lost interest in my position as a sales representative at Cheetah Express. I’m bored. Also, I did not get a couple of promotions I applied for and so I began looking for a new job about six months ago.
I will still be a sales representative, but I will be working in a different field(tropical fish) and making more money. I would tell you how much more if I was an asshole–but I’m not, so I won’t.
I have enjoyed many of you, particularly the cynical jokes from Lucy and David, lived through good and bad management(4 CEO’s and numerous supervisors), skipped a lot of Christmas parties, called in sick twice to go to baseball games(they lost) and seen so many people come and go through this place that I’m surprised I lasted this long.
I’ll see some of you again(you know who you are) and I hope this company continues to prosper so you can keep collecting your paychecks and never have the horrible experience of being laid off.
That would be meaningful even if I didn’t know Harold and if I didn’t know him it would make me wish I had known him. He doesn’t even exist and I wish I knew him.
- Orwell, George, Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays, from his essay “Politics and English Language,” Quality Paperback Book Club, New York, 1991, pp.79-80.