From Working Girl to Value-Adding Employee of Female Gender

Last night in class we talked about our projects, or at least some of us did. Not me, thank goodness, because I realized that I still have a long way to go.

Sometimes I feel like I have no idea what’s going on in that class. I swear some of my classmates have secret classes with the professor, because they go back and forth about this philosopher or that theory like it’s common knowledge.

At least I’m not the only one who feels this way. Before class started, one woman commented that she totally did the assignment wrong. I said I thought I did my wrong too, and that I really wasn’t sure what he was asking for, and she said that’s how he is in the other class she’s taking with him.

“Every assignment is like that,” she said. “No one knows what he’s asking for.”

Luckily his expectations match his assignments – he doesn’t expect concrete answers or results. He’s more interested in the process of how we’re getting to whatever it is we’re getting to. The problem is what if I don’t even know what that getting to is?

Last night a few people talked about their projects, and he helped them work them boil down their broader ideas to something more specific. What I gathered is that the “problem” we’re exploring in our projects should be very specific and solveable. Mine was way too general – “internal communication in a corporation is often unclear, unemotional, and exclusive.” How do you solve that?

My wish is that people stop talking and writing in corp speak all together, and also that while I understand that in a publicly held company, employees can’t know certain information before investors, it would be nice to have some sort of acknowledgement in plain terms, even after the fact. “You may have seen on Yahoo! Finance that we laid off x number of employees.”

But that will never happen. It would involve a change in culture, which is virtually impossible in such a large organization.

So I started to think smaller and more realistically. There is definitely a “language barrier” depending on function – managers versus secretaries for instance, or those new to the company versus those who have been here for a while. What’s something simple that would help them overcome this barrier?

Our company already has a “wikipedia,” but it’s quite broad, and I’m not sure how much it’s utilized. It would be interesting to see:

  • If there is the language barrier I’m assuming there is
  • If secretaries who want to move up think that this barrier prevents them from doing so
  • What courses and training are currently available for admins, and what gaps there are, if any
  • Would something like a dictionary of corporate language terms be helpful to them, or to anyone new to the company
  • How much the existing wikipedia is being used, and any feedback on it

This would connect back to library science because it’s the library services folks who created and own the wikipedia. I could survey them not only about that but their thoughts on communication as well.

Ideally I’d love to “English” translations of company specific-jargon. For instance, blahblahblah actually means “lay-offs.” The entry for that term very diplomatically points to internal memos. Or to have a suggested use: “Utilize: to use. Better word: use.” I guess the translation on the more political words could be “stealth” through tags and such.

So it seems my problem isn’t just that corporate communication is unclear, but that the language barrier can prevent those not in the club from joining the club. I know at least one former secretary who had such trouble moving up, even with an MBA, and I think it’s because she could not talk the talk. Not that a dictionary will make you fluent, but it may at least give you more of an in.

Also, the dictionary may help people to think more critically about language. Why use long made-up words when shorter ones will do?

In addition to that secretary, I know two others who transitioned from admin to manager. There must be more. Oh, I just remembered one, but she became such an incredible bitch after she got promoted, I don’t even want to talk to her.

Tonight we have *another* class. The author of one of the books we read is coming in to speak, and Friday was the only day he could do it. The professor said we’ll cancel an upcoming class in place of tonight’s, which is cool, but I dread the idea of having more school already. I’m pooped.

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