Employee communication consultant Tom Lee called and left me a message this afternoon. He's looking for a few good business euphemisms beyond the usual "rightsizing." Though I've been awash in business euphemisms my whole career ("career" itself being a euphemism in this case), I was as stumped as Tom.
I e-mailed him:
I think the reason you’re having a hard time coming up with these euphemistic howlers is that “rightsizing” is a rare example of a euphemism that’s ALWAYS a euphemism. As for others, a challenge sometimes really is a challenge, and an opportunity really is an opportunity.
Meanwhile, perfectly good words, like “merger,” can be euphemisms. (When Wal-Mart buys Piggly Wiggly, it won’t be a merger, it’ll be an acquisition.)
Sometimes when a consultant says he’d prefer not to “get into the tall grass” an issue but he’d be happy to talk about it “offline,” he’s dodging the client’s question. Other times, he’s just trying to keep the meeting on track.
Sometimes “synergy” means shit-canning half the combined workforce … and sometimes it means the executives really believe the two companies are going to be greater than the sum of their parts.
As for good old “rightsizing,” it’s never good; but downsizing and layoffs are not euphemisms for “firing people,” which implies you’re doing it for cause.
It has everything to do with intent, which is different in every case.
I also told him I'd run it by Writing Boots readers and see if they could help.