Challenge: The Euphemism

“We’d like you to see this as a challenge.”

A few years ago, all problems disappeared from the modern workplace. They were replaced by “challenges.” I obviously do believe in the power of words; specific meanings come with each one, and I see the value of not magnifying negatives by having your employees dwell on their “problems.” But I’d like to officially retire this one, because it has outlived its usefulness. It now means “Hey, management fucked up, and the buck is hereby passed.”

This is a horrible trap. In those situations, if you point out that the “challenge” is unrealistic and/or simply an unfair burden, then you’re not “rising to the challenge.” And if you don’t discuss it and do manage to achieve the impossible, you don’t hear much in the way of praise — it was expected that you would “meet the challenge.” So you can either break even or lose.

It’s a shame, because there was a time when this phrase meant something. There are situations that require creative solutions — a few from my world include, how do you keep a print magazine relevant in the age of online? How do you bring in compelling content under a strict budget? How do you find new talent that you can trust to do the job right and take the responsibility seriously? Those are challenges. That stuff is very different from “Here’s bad news; don’t complain about it.”

I will see getting over my aversion to this phrase as a challenge.

This entry was posted in Etc. Bookmark the permalink.