Reading through a list of some common business idioms is exhausting: 24/7, multi-task, cut to the chase, keep pace, raise the bar, stay on your toes, ahead of the curve, ASAP, play hardball, corner the market and bottom-line. Business language seems to have ascended to a culturally prioritized and publicly normalized language that reduces human experiencing to business captions, concepts, categories, and operations. There must be a language, better still a dialogue, at the nexus point of business practice and the reality of human living, experiencing, creating, and relating that could collaboratively aim to reduce the burnout, lack of engagement, retention and complacency that continues to plague us in our work environments.
Language is powerful. We experience this power not only in business terminology, but also in the languages of technology and science. Psychology too influences how we see ourselves, speak about ourselves and make assumptions about our capabilities. The proliferation of psychological theories through the 20th century and psychology’s prominence as a discipline and practice have led to a public psychologized language that influences and frames how we talk about, conceptualize, rationalize, analyze and even “diagnose” ourselves, our relationships and our environments. These powerful languages often go unchecked in terms of how they infiltrate our day to day discourse and the extent to which they produce expectations and assumptions of normalcy and “the way things are.”
The spread of business language and models has had the same wide and prominent influence on public discourse with resulting presumptions about how the world runs and how individual lives should progress in accordance with success, efficiency and profit. How often does the “bottom line”… frame and contain our living experiences?
There is a vast incongruence between our living experiences, our continuous, creative, complex development and expansion as human beings and these imported concepts of linear success, projected outcomes, efficiency, productivity and statistical certainty. One thing is certain: the sheer breadth and depth of human possibility, capability, paradox, unpredictability, failure, fortitude, resilience, and passionate striving! As the philosopher Mary Midgley has stated, “complexity is not a scandal”.
I work with clients in both individual and vocational counseling who continuously experience levels of stress, discouragement, disengagement, fatigue, and cynicism that are out of proportion with their talents, capabilities, experiences and aspirations. This incongruence should not be. There must be a dialogue at the nexus point between the practical application of business principles in appropriate settings and environments and the inexhaustible talent, imagination, drive and creativity that characterize human expression. We need a language that embraces and does not reduce what is in fact reliable but rarely quantifiable: the inextinguishable power and diversity of human potential.