Thursday, April 7, 2016

"Graduating"

A sharp, funny critique of Boston software startup culture by a former Newsweek magazine writer named Dan Lyons at Fortune.com. This section about layoffs was really funny, I thought:
Dharmesh’s culture code incorporates elements of HubSpeak. For example, it instructs that when someone quits or gets fired, the event will be referred to as “graduation.” In my first month at HubSpot I’ve witnessed several graduations, just in the marketing department. We’ll get an email from Cranium saying, “Team, just letting you know that Derek has graduated from HubSpot, and we’re excited to see how he uses his superpowers in his next big adventure!” Only then do you notice that Derek is gone, that his desk has been cleared out. Somehow Derek’s boss will have arranged his disappearance without anyone knowing about it. People just go up in smoke, like Spinal Tap drummers. 
Nobody ever talks about the people who graduate, and nobody ever mentions how weird it is to call it “graduation.” For that matter I never hear anyone laugh about HEART or make jokes about the culture code. Everyone acts as if all of these things are perfectly normal.
I have heard of people who have left a company as "alumni", but this is taking it a step further.

Every company has its jargon, but I think folks should be cautious when an organization's internal language tends to obscure unpleasant things. I've never heard any euphemisms during an interview, but if I did, it would instantly put me on guard.

Readers, what's your favorite corporate euphemism?

18 comments:

  1. Right sized = fired

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  2. In addition to euphemisms, each company has it's own set of internal acronyms. For example, we had a decent-sized round of layoffs last year, but most of us had no idea it had even occurred unless they directly affected your own work group. I only found out when I kept sending emails and getting absolutely NO response, which was very out of character. It was only then that I was informed that "such and such" was NLWD (No Longer With Dow).

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  3. This, http://www.halozyme.com/investors/news-releases/news-release-details/2010/Halozyme-Therapeutics-Announces-Implementation-of-Development-Focused-Strategy/default.aspx, is a fav....

    "A decade's worth of investment in discovery and preclinical research from 2000 to 2010 has resulted in two FDA approved products, three late stage product candidates with Roche and Baxter, and three exciting proprietary programs with best-in-class or first-in-class potential," stated Jonathan Lim, M.D., president and CEO"...and to thank those diligent employees who achieved our success in research we're announcing that they no longer need to come in to work.....

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  4. CTP = Career Transition Program = Laid off. Courtesy of Dupont.

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    1. I was laid off a couple months ago. They called it "transitioning to a new opportunity."

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  5. "CTP = Career Transition Program = Laid off. Courtesy of Dupont."

    I remember that... I got laid off from Dupont in 1995... I have to say thought that overall they treated those getting laid reasonably well back then.

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  6. Kurtzmann: [on Buttle] You see? The population census has got him down as "dormanted." Uh, the Central Collective Storehouse computer has got him down as "deleted."
    Sam Lowry: Hang on.
    [goes to a computer terminal]
    Kurtzmann: Information Retrieval has got him down as "inoperative." And there's another one - security has got him down as "excised." Administration has got him down as "completed."
    Sam Lowry: He's dead.

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    1. Anon @ 10:12: Great movie. Too bad I can't give your post a thumbs up.

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  7. let go, de-emphasize, streamline, re-align, transition, shift focus, prioritize, best fit for the company (=not you), going forward, maximizing shareholders value, winding down, zeroing on, transferable skills (=you have them)

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    1. "going forward" is a TERRIBLE one.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. That list reminds me of the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch. "E's passed on! This employee is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-employee!!

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  8. Voluntary separation

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  9. The Iron ChemistApril 8, 2016 at 9:06 AM

    Compliments of the movie "Real Genius":

    "I'm afraid we're going to have to liberate George."
    "Liberate? You mean, liquidate?"

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  10. Contrast this with the anti-euphemistic words used by the great mathematician Paul Erdos. When a mathematician stopped producing good papers he would say the person "had died".

    Dan Lyons's book "Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble" seems to be a riot by the way.

    http://www.amazon.com/Disrupted-My-Misadventure-Start-Up-Bubble/dp/0316306088

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  11. 'Stakeholders' - and then don't include the people doing the actual work.

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  12. Infinity "pharmaceuticals" annoyingly refers to its employees as Citizen Owners.

    Here's a classic (http://www.fiercebiotech.com/story/infinity-pharma-axes-20-jobs/2012-08-07): "Infinity has realigned its spending after getting back full rights to its PI3K, FAAH and other programs from partners Mundipharma and Purdue Pharmaceutical Products in July."

    Which translates as: we fired a bunch of people after our partners dropped the crap product they licensed from us.

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  13. I remember back in the early 1990s when DuPont came out with the 'Career Transition Program'. It was presented in a multi-page brochure, written up like a company benefit, similar to the way medical plans are described. I thought I was reading about a program where they helped the few individuals who just weren't working out well in their jobs, who would do better at another company, for which DuPont would help them find a more appropriate position. It didn't dawn on my until another coworker mentioned that this was the new improved DuPont layoff program, which would end up as a 'benefit' to thousands of employees over the years.
    It got to the point that when someone was laid off, it was called "they got CTP'd."
    If I recall correctly, it is still bundled into the medical/dental/life insurance/401K brochures that are mailed out once a year.

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