By Jason Menard
Navigating the murky waters of corporate communications can be an eventful journey – creatures once thought to be extinct in the real world continue to thrive. In fact, there is one creature that does not just ignore Darwinian teaching – it literally defies evolutionary theory by its existence: the Corporate Verbal Hamster.
Those who suffer from Corporate Verbal Hamster Syndrome (heretofore known as CVHS) are amazingly adept at grinding the wheels of commerce to a halt. While the condition is not contagious and – unfortunately – not fatal, it does impact the lives and attitudes of those who are subjected to the corporate denizen infected with this condition.
The Corporate Verbal Hamster is so named because it continuously spews forth a stream of words, regardless of whether or not their opinion has been solicited or is even warranted. In meetings, this is the one person who must insert their commentary – I refrain from saying two cents, because I don’t want to overvalue their input – not just into each and every discussion, but into each and every phrase.
Like a human punctuation mark, one’s sentence apparently isn’t complete without the Corporate Verbal Hamster adding his or her words.
The sad thing about the Corporate Verbal Hamster is that they rarely add anything new or interesting to the conversation. Most often, the recycle or summarize statements that were able to stand up quite nicely on their own, thank you. Due to the fact that their mouths are constantly moving, their brains do not have the opportunity to engage in free and original thought, occupied instead by the need to focus on parroting back what is said.
Although perhaps that statement is not exactly fair. To the parrot.
You see, the average parrot has a little more common courtesy and social grace than the Corporate Verbal Hamster. To parrot is to repeat what someone else has said – thereby inferring that the parrot has at least allowed the original speaker (with the original thought) to finish the statement. The Corporate Verbal Hamster begins the repetition often in the middle of the original speaker’s sentence, preferring to complete it for him or her – and usually getting the idea or concept wrong, due to the fact that CVHS does not include premonitions or psychic ability as a side effect.
So frustrations mount, those who are easily dominated in speech sit back preferring not to engage in a war of uttering words with the Hamster, and nothing gets done. Because the Hamster has no original ideas and continues to utter the same things, pausing only briefly for half-breaths (taking a full one is too long), nothing new gets discussed and hours of potentially lucrative and innovative work time gets sacrificed at the feet of the Hamster’s affliction.
Unfortunately, management is often blind to CVHS, or unwilling to get involved. Putting it out of its – or more likely our own – misery is not an option either. Not for any moral or legal reasons, but rather simply physiological ones. Nay, one cannot starve this vile creature into submission as it feeds upon its own ego. Much as a flower uses photosynthesis to convert light energy into life-sustaining chemical energy like glucose, the Corporate Verbal Hamster is able to appropriate other people’s ideas and words and rehash them, making them their own and sustaining their very livelihood at the expense of others.
Like the Colgate Flip-Top Kids, this nefarious corporate beast suffers from a jaw seemingly on a hinge, unable to stay closed of its own volition. As such, it continues to open and shut, uttering inanities and filling the air with unwanted air pollution.
Yet, instead of simply filtering into the background like ambient noise, the Corporate Verbal Hamster’s words hang heavily around the meeting table, like the Sword of Damocles, weighing people down into submission.
So is there a solution? Should not the Hamster’s aura of intelligence be pierced by those realizing that the ideas and thoughts spewed forth are appropriated and not originated? Sadly, no. That’s not the way corporations work. The work gets done, often in spite of these people. They become isolated from the group, which only serves to feed the beast as the resentment of being ostracized only causes the Hamster to increase its sense of superiority.
Thankfully, with e-mail and new technologies, the Corporate Verbal Hamster is often restricted in its environment – its reach stunted by turn-based communications devices. And in today’s increasingly global and technologically based economy, that’s all we can hope for.
Corporations will survive in spite of themselves. And like groundhogs on a golf course, the Corporate Verbal Hamster is just one rodent that we’ve grown to work around. Until there’s a cure for CVHS, that’s the best we can do.
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