10 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Human Resources

by Frank Roche on December 10, 2010

in Business, Communication

SwissMiss linked to an article called 20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World. Here’s my favorite word in the piece:

Jaysus
Indonesian – A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.

That made me think about how human resources words are the Navajo language of business.

Here are 10 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Human Resources.

  1. Human Resources. Can have a number of meanings depending on where it’s applied: hall monitor, matriarch, management shill, facilitator of business success. Name derived in Personnel Dept. circa 1984.
  2. Business Partner. It’s your HR rep. Or your manager’s HR rep. Depends on if you’re good or bad.
  3. Employee Engagement. Do-your-work-and-act-like-you-love-it. Or else.
  4. 401(k). Where employees save money for retirement. A recession-era joke in HR: My 401(k) is now my 201(k).
  5. Performance Management. I’m your manager (read: parent). You do what I say or I’ll give you a bad rating. And no matter how good you are, you can’t get the top rating. Plus, I’m gonna tell you three things you’re bad at.
  6. Merit Increase. Cost of living increase. If your manager is really discerning, you get 0.1% more than the guy who does nothing all day.
  7. Variable Pay. It’s your bonus. And you could get none of it. Or all of it. See “Performance Management.”
  8. Teambuilding. Very subtle word that means to appear cooperative, being mindful that all the pay and reward systems are based on individual efforts.
  9. Open Enrollment. Means “sign up for your benefits for next year.” Also can be called “Annual Enrollment.”
  10. High Potential. Means you could have been a contender. Employees have to have a great manager or it’s a one way ticket to Palookaville.

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