At a recent board meeting of our advisers, we had a lively discussion about the role that workplace vernacular plays in the effective functioning of organizations. Many expressions used in contemporary organizations have their roots in hierarchical models that may not be relevant in the highly networked world. Sports and combat analogies depict the workplace as a win/lose proposition, ignoring opportunities for collaboration. And some frequently used expressions that are just plain offensive (“opening the kimono”) just won’t go away.
Is it just an internal marketing ploy to change the labels on things; i.e. “colleague vs. employee”, or does it really make a difference? How do leaders prevent their messages from coming across as hollow? What communication practices build trust and engagement vs. cynicism, ensuring that there is congruence between messages and organizational structures?2