企业为什么禁用这些词汇

编辑:给力英语新闻 更新:2017年9月17日 作者:马克·约翰逊(Mark Johanson)

企业禁用某些词汇和规定用词用语,以保持客户服务的一致性和人性化(图片来源:Getty Images)
企业禁用某些词汇和规定用词用语,以保持客户服务的一致性和人性化(图片来源:Getty Images) Banned words and suggested phrases are often employed to keep customer service consistent and personal (Credit: Getty Images)

如果申请到美国小型意式牛排连锁公司Davio's的工作,你永远也不会听到"雇员"(employee)这个极其常见的词汇。这是因为他们的首席执行官史蒂夫·迪菲利波(Steve DiFillippo)禁止使用这个词。

"我认为'雇员'这个词很糟糕。"他说,"谁想成为雇员?这肯定不是你的奋斗目标。"相反,在迪菲利波手下效力的人都被称作"内部客人"(inner guests)。

"很多服务员和厨师都去过很多饭店,希望找到自己的出路。我们把他们挽留下来。"他解释道,"他们来到这里后,发现这是个与众不同的地方,发现自己可以在这里获得不同的待遇。"

对迪菲利波来说,禁用这个词既可以向他的"内部客人"下放权力,也可以向"外部客人"(即食客)传达该公司的核心价值观。

这家餐厅并非唯一一家想要挑战现状的公司。蒙特利尔软件公司GSOFT最近也因为缺乏人情味而禁用了"人力资源"一词,取而代之的是一个负责"协调集体行动"的文化和组织部门。与此同时,英国房地产开发和投资公司Allied London也禁用了"人脉会"(networking)这个词,他们的员工用"沟通会"(talking shop)来指代这种活动。

可是,禁用一个传统说法,再用一个有点古怪的说法取而代之,真的能带来什么好处吗?或者,在职场术语中掺杂这种故弄玄虚的说法,会不会导致参与其中的人面临更加晦涩难懂的语境?

夏尔巴、先知、传道者

要理解为什么会出现禁用词,最好先来看看企业内部新出现的新颖词汇,包括为你制作午餐的"三明治艺术家"(sandwich artist)和苹果商店里为你设置iPhone的"天才"(genius)。这种现象在科技公司非常普遍,例如微软的"创新夏尔巴"(innovation sherpas)、Tumblr的"时尚传道者"(fashion evangelists)和AOL的"数字先知"(digital prophets)。

伦敦商学院组织行为学教授丹·凯布尔(Dan Cable)表示,虽然他未必认同"幻想工程师"(imagineer)这个头衔能提升迪士尼的创造力,但他的确认为,对语言进行调整可以引发一些良性互动和内省。

"如果你能让人们思考他们如何为公司增加独特的价值,那么只需要一两个词便可时刻提醒他们:你不可或缺,你很有价值,你很有用。"他说。

凯布尔表示,通过招募"内部客人",而不是员工,"就有可能吸引一批不同的人,甚至让他们在加入公司前就思考某些想法。"他的研究表明,除了在招聘时吸引关注外,有创意的工作头衔也可以成为降低压力和激励员工的重要手段。

职场品牌化

这种修改职场语言和气质的趋势很大程度上是受到千禧一代的推动。研究表明,他们在工作中追求的目标比前辈们更加宏伟。直截了当的用词禁令或推荐用语将此推向了新的层次。

在整个公司范围内实施的禁令通常都涉及那些可能给品牌带来负面影响的词汇或短语。2014年披露的通用汽车与美国政府的和解文件显示,该公司对工程师培训时要求他们不要使用69个煽动性的词汇和短语,包括"缺陷"、"瑕疵"和"死亡陷阱"。

《华尔街日报》2011年的一篇报道在评估了各大企业的机密培训手册和商店会议记录后发现,苹果培训其零售店的员工时,要求他们不要使用"不幸地"这样的词。相反,苹果要求该公司的"天才"在出现问题时使用"事实证明"这种负面情绪较轻的词。

科技网站Gizmodo也在查看过机密员工手册后指出,苹果同样禁止员工使用"漏洞"或"崩溃"这样的说法,而推荐用"没有响应"来代替。与此同时,在描述产品发热时,"暖"也比"热"更受推崇。

最近的一些禁令则更加微妙,而且采用一些过于僵化或者无法反映公司文化的词汇、头衔和短语。

凯布尔表示,禁用一个词汇往往是一种精心策划的自我品牌塑造方式,可以向外部公众和内部员工传递一条信息。例如,如果你像社交媒体管理平台Buffer那样,取消公司的客户服务部,然后用一群"幸福英雄"来取代它,那么你的目的就是把我们(年轻、进步)与他们(老迈、沉闷)区分开来。

当名字过时的时候

纽约品牌顾问兼《玛丽姓名指南》(Merriam's Guide to Naming)的作者丽莎·玛丽(Lisa Merriam)表示,设定语言规则往往适得其反。"当企业想要装酷时,就跟你爸爸装酷的效果一样:只能适得其反。令人无比尴尬。"她说。

玛丽补充道,如果员工通过调整术语——尤其是职位头衔——来反映我们当前的时代面貌,最终反而会因为"与时代脱节的炫酷头衔"导致未来的招聘官无法找到自己。

在最近的一项调查中,1,000名英国成年人被要求区分18个工作头衔究竟是科技行业创造的,还是凭空杜撰的。结果显示:云大师(Cloud Master,一款1980年代的电脑游戏)比9个真实科技头衔中的6个更像真的头衔。

温哥华Goldbeck Recruiting公司总裁亨利·古德贝克(Henry Goldbeck)在LinkedIn的一篇帖子中强调了这个问题。他认为,潜在雇主在搜索求职者的数据库时不会使用"忍者"或"摇滚明星"这样的关键词,他们要找的是会计。

玛丽认为,更重要的或许在于,在职场中禁止某个东西时必须小心行事,尤其是在当今这个气氛紧张的环境中。

"当你要禁用某些词汇,并用其他词取而代之时,可能就会有一点'奥威尔主义'。"她指出,"如果用新词来代替表意清晰、众所周知、易于理解的词汇,可能会引发困惑和不信任,还有可能令公司遭到员工的鄙视。"

Why do some companies ban certain words?

Apply for a job at Davio’s, a small chain of Italian-style steakhouses in the US, and you’ll never hear one extremely common workplace term: employee. That’s because CEO Steve DiFillippo has banned its use.

“I think ‘employee’ is an awful word,” he says. “Who wants to be an employee? It just isn’t something you strive toward.” Instead, those who work for DiFillippo are known as ‘inner guests.’

“A lot of servers and cooks go from restaurant to restaurant trying to find their way; we stop that,” he explains. “They come here and realise they’re in a different place where they’ll be treated differently.”

For DiFillippo, banning the word is both a way of empowering his ‘inner guests’ and explaining the company’s core values to its ‘outer guests’ (the diners).

The restaurateur is hardly alone in his desire to challenge the status quo. Montreal-based software company GSOFT recently banned the term ‘human resources’ for being too impersonal, replacing it with a department of culture and organisation charged with “harmonising collective action.” Meanwhile the term networking is now verboten at British property development and investment company Allied London (instead, workers can attend ‘talking shop’ events).

But can banning one traditional term and replacing it with a buzzier alternative really do any good? Or does muddying the pool of workplace jargon with double speak just make it all more complicated for everyone involved?

Sherpas, prophets and evangelists

To understand the rise in banned words it helps to first look at the proliferation of new and creative corporate terms, from the ‘sandwich artist’ who makes your lunchtime sub to the ‘genius’ at the Apple store who sets up your iPhone. Tech companies have become particularly adept at this, with ‘innovation sherpas’ at Microsoft, ‘fashion evangelists’ at Tumblr and ‘digital prophets’ at AOL.

A linguistic twist can provoke some healthy engagement and introspection

Dan Cable, a professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School, says that while he doesn’t necessarily think that having a title like ‘imagineer’ will make engineers at Walt Disney any more creative, he does believe a linguistic twist can provoke some healthy engagement and introspection.

“If you can get individuals to think about how they add unique value to a company, then just a word or two can serve as a constant reminder to them: you are necessary, you are valuable, you have a purpose,” he says.

By hiring, say, ‘inner guests’ instead of employees, “it’s possible you could attract a different sort of person and get them thinking certain thoughts even before they join the company,” says Cable. His research shows that, beyond making a splash in recruiting, creative job titles can be important vehicles for both reducing stress and energising workers.

Branding the workplace

The trend towards manipulating workplace language and ethos is largely driven by millennials, who, research shows, seek a greater purpose out of work than their predecessors. Outright word bans and suggested terms take this to the next level.

Company-wide bans have usually dealt with words or phrases that could bring negative associations to a brand. Documents released in 2014 as part of a General Motors' settlement with the US government revealed that the company had coached engineers to avoid 69 incendiary words and phrases, including ‘defect,’ ‘flawed’ and ‘death trap.’

And according to a 2011 report in the Wall Street Journal, which assessed confidential training manuals and a recording of store meetings, Apple coached workers at its retail stores to avoid words like ‘unfortunately,’. Instead, Apple’s ‘geniuses’ were told to say ‘as it turns out’ to sound less negative when an issue arose.

Tech site Gizmodo, which also looked at a confidential employee manual, noted that Apple employees were also forbidden from using phrases such as ‘bug’ or ‘crash’ where ‘not responding’ was preferable. Meanwhile, ‘warm’ was preferred over ‘hot’ when describing a product that was giving out heat.

More recent bans are much more nuanced and have come about with words, titles and phrases that are perceived as too rigid or not reflective of the company culture.

Cable says the act of banning a word is often an elaborate form of self-branding that sends a message both externally to the public and internally to the workers. When, for example, you rid your company of a customer service department and replace it with a group of ‘happiness heroes,’ as social media management platform Buffer did, you do so to separate the us (young, progressive) from the them (old, uninspired).

When you start banning words and replacing them with something else it can be a little Orwellian

When names become dated

Lisa Merriam, a New York City-based brand consultant and author of Merriam's Guide to Naming, says that setting language rules can often backfire. “When companies attempt to be cool, it’s sort of like your dad trying to be cool: It’s the opposite. It’s cringingly embarrassing,” she says.

Merriam adds that, by changing the jargon – and job titles in particular – to reflect our current age, workers are ultimately making themselves invisible to future recruiters with “cool titles that truly don’t age well.”

A recent survey of 1,000 UK adults asked them to identify whether 18 job titles from the tech industry were real or fake. The result: Cloud Master (a 1980s computer game) was a more plausible sounding occupation than six of the nine actual tech jobs.

Henry Goldbeck, President of Vancouver-based Goldbeck Recruiting, highlighted this issue in a LinkedIn post. Potential employers aren’t doing a keyword search of their candidate database for accounting ‘ninjas’ or ‘rock stars,’ he argued. They’re looking for accountants.

Perhaps more importantly, Merriam believes, you have to tread carefully with banning anything in the workplace, particularly in today’s charged environment.

“When you start banning words and replacing them with something else it can be a little Orwellian,” she notes. “By choosing new words to replace clear, known and understood words you can also create confusion or mistrust and may inspire employees to feel scorn for the company.”