Home > Uncategorized > Talk — I mean obfuscate — your way to the top

Talk — I mean obfuscate — your way to the top

You’ve tried dressing like a boss. Acting like a boss. Still waiting for that promotion? Try talking like a boss.

For starters, don’t raise problems. Raise concerns. “I have a problem” makes you sound like a whiner. “I have a concern” sets you up as a responsible corporate citizen. Open this way, and then state your problem.

woman climbing ladder

Is your department overworked? You don’t need people. You need resources. Better yet, you have a resource concern.

Need an extra chair? You could get one. Then again you could procure one.

Don’t tell people what to do; give them action items. Don’t make plans; negotiate logistics. Don’t prepare; do legwork. (Legs are not necessarily involved.) Don’t get people to agree with you; get them to sign off on your ideas. (They don’t sign anything.) First, though, triangulate — don’t bounce — your ideas off them.

Goods and services aren’t cheap. They’re cost-effective. And you don’t spend money. You spend monies. Appropriated monies. (Monies taken from someone else.)

Above all, don’t ask for a raise. Discuss a salary action.

Learning the lingo is easy. Whenever a manager happens to be talking nearby, listen. Take notes. (This isn’t eavesdropping; it’s career development.) Build a fast-track vocabulary list. Practice your new words on the way to and from work. Say them out loud. Roll them around in your mouth. Make them your own. Then start easing them into your conversations. They’ll sound artificial to you at first, but soon you’ll be feeling comfortable with your new language.

And your new peers.

But be prepared for new challenges in your managerial role. Imagine that you catch the CEO in the elevator. You tell her that you have a critical-path concern about resources. You’re not asking for sign-off yet. You have a few ideas to triangulate first to ensure a cost-effective resolution. You offer to take an action item to do the legwork and negotiate the logistics if she’ll appropriate the monies. You’d even postpone your salary action if doing so would procure her approval. She says, “Let’s handle that issue off-line.” Her words mean “Later.” She means “Tough.” You realize that you’re on your own.

The top isn’t the only place it’s lonely.


(I first published this article, in a slightly different form, in the spring 1991 issue of IABC Communicator, the newsletter of the Central New York chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.


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Published on: Dec 11, 2010 @ 6:47 Edit


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  1. December 18, 2010 at 6:11 am

    This is good stuff. My only issue with the use of this sort of powerful language is that some of these terms become oft-repeated cliches and generally drive me batty. I tend to bristle when someone tells me something like “they wear many hats”. Work cliches can be maddening when overused, but strong language never hurt anyone.

  2. December 18, 2010 at 11:10 am

    I’m with you, Keith. I meant to be spoofing. I’ll change the title and see if that helps. Thanks for the feedback.

  3. December 18, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Obfuscate your way to the top!!!! Ha!

  4. December 18, 2010 at 11:53 am


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