Even one of my all-time favorite movie scenes contains a short bit involving acronyms in the work place. They’re everywhere, in every office setting, unavoidable within corporate confines. They’re excruciatingly annoying to anyone under a four on the office nerd scale. Quick, think of the biggest nerd in your office. He has an impressive mental rolodex of acronyms and abbreviations, doesn’t he? Like an encyclopedia, that guy. Well, contrary to how Cubicle Carl or Middle Management Marty tosses out corporate acronyms, or CAs, in a casual manner that would suggest they’re discussing office decor or taking pick-up lunch orders (yeah Carl, we know you want the fucking BLT), Alec Baldwin’s character in the iconic scene of Glengarry Glen Ross has real purpose behind his acronym usage, in which he shares his “Always Be Closing” method on closing sales leads. It’s a teaching method, one used as a memorization aide.
When Carl or Marty spout them off at you during unfortunate break room encounters or hallway path crossings on the way to the shitter like it’s second nature, they have no REAL purpose. They’re not saving time by turning a six syllable term into a four-letter, and four syllable, “shorthand” acronym. They use them because it makes them feel all corporate-y. It makes them feel like they’re “part of the gang” that knows the inner-office lingo. It makes them feel like they know what they’re talking about. Like they’re experienced veterans of the industry. Like they could teach a goddamn Acronyms 101 class to all the new entry levels.
I know what you’re thinking. “What do you know, asshole? You write for a couple humor websites. Corporate, my ass.” Au contraire, my friends. Before trying my hand at safe-for-work (SFW) online smut peddling, I worked for three years as a bookkeeper and job estimator for a construction company — in an office. I was swimming in RFPs and learning all about the GAAP methods before I had even learned their abbreviations.
The acronym’s existence is all about efficiency, to save a little time and streamline your industry’s vernacular, but I’m here to tell you that, at the end of the day, they end up tipping the scales toward inefficiency. How? Why?
Here’s the dirty little secret about all these corporate acronyms:
Not Everyone Knows What They Mean & Most Are Afraid To Ask
Did your company institute some kind of new employer orientation when you started? Possibly. Did they mandate a course or half a day on acronyms/abbreviations and what they mean? Not likely. Did Marty at least give you a quick “Here’s what you’ll need to know” rundown while standing at your cubicle and steeping his hot tea like a goober? No, he probably didn’t. And were you under a constant acronym and abbreviation barrage right when you nervously walked through the office doors for the first time? Absofuckinglutely.
Look, they’re confusing, too many sound alike, and there are so goddamn many of them. New ones are popping up all the time, too. BOOM! One was just invented. You’re expected to know it tomorrow. You ready for it?
The bitch of it is, if you don’t know what a particular one means, you think you’ll sound like an unprepared rookie dumbass if you admit your ignorance and ask about it.
You: “Sorry, Pete, but uh… what exactly is a CAGR?”
Carl: (snarky tone) “Really, man?”
You: “Hey Carl, I was actually talking to Pete, but yeah, really. I’ve never heard that one before. That’s all.”
Pete: “Compound annual growth rate.”
You: “Thanks, Pete.”
Carl: “I’m surprised you didn’t know that one. Haven’t you been working here for like over a year now, dude?”
You: “Ten months actually, and I know what a compound annual growth rate is, Carl. I have a damn finance degree, man. The acronym just didn’t register, okay?”
Carl: “Man, I’m just saying…”
You: “You’re just saying what, Carl?”
Carl: “I’m just saying that should be common knowledge by now, no? I think I even heard Garret use that one last week and he’s been here for like two months.”
You: “Is that right?”
Carl: “Yeah, serious.”
You: “Kindly get fucked, Carl.”
Carl: “Whoa, easy!”
You: “Tell Garret to go fuck himself, too.”
A conversation like this one may seem a bit farfetched, and maybe it is by a tad, but you will receive a lighthearted jab or an eyebrow raise, AT MINIMUM, if you cross that line from fully-knowledgeable-consumate-professional to the ignorant idiot who doesn’t know basic CAs. Like a lioness with a pride of hungry cubs waiting for her back in the den, Carl and Marty are waiting for you to slip up and show vulnerability, and when you do, they’ll make you pay for it. They want your flesh. For this reason, office jockeys just avoid the conversation altogether and nod their heads agreeably like mindless corporate soldier-robots.
Don’t believe me? Try an experiment. Over the weekend, think up some brand new abbreviations that mean absolutely nothing, maybe like three to five of them. Then, on Monday, when you find yourself alone in the break room with Carl, just lay them on him. Be cool and confident, though. Don’t force it. It has to feel and sound natural, but smack Carl’s smug little face with them and watch his response. Odds are five-to-one that he takes them perfectly in stride and plays it off like the office champion he was born to be. He’ll already know what they stand for.
Some, some CAs are older than dirt and have rightfully earned their places in the corporate parlance, but generally speaking, they need to stop.
Unless the abbreviation you want to talk about is “NSFW,” STFU.