Tag Archives: corporate life

Corporate Verbal Hamster Bane of Commerce

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.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Turning Down the Volume on Musak

By Jason Menard

If silence is golden, then why can’t we turn down the volume on that most insidious corporate invention – Musak?

It’s as if we have to have some sort of background noise to drown out the empty spaces of our day. Perish the thought that we could actually talk, think, or enjoy a moment of quiet reflection without some not-so-golden oldie wafting out of the omnipresent speaker system.

Oddly enough, it is considered rude to walk around with a set of headphones so that you can enjoy your own musical selections. And it’s not like people want you to share – considering the looks we throw people who are cranking the tunes in their cars with the windows rolled down, or carrying a ghetto blaster (am I dating myself?) around with them blaring their tunes to the world.

Yet, some corporate entity can choose to drown out your thoughts with their pre-selected, mood-setting song stylings. Pacify the masses with Celine Dion’s back catalogue, because we don’t want someone getting riled up by Led Zeppelin in the freezer aisle and going postal with a package of pre-chopped spinach!

The problem with this mentality is that Musak is offensive by its very attempts to be inoffensive. In an attempt to be as broad-reaching and appealing to the widest demographic, Musak prides itself on its commonality. It caters to the lowest common denominator of easy listening. Instead of trying to spice up our lives, the question we are given to ponder is what particular flavour of bland we prefer! Yes, I understand that Richard Marx is a person too – but one would think that being regulated to the Musak rotation would symbolize the nadir of your musical career.

Normally, I’m a proponent of the concept of voting with your wallet and staying away from places that use Musak as the soundtrack of their shopping experience, but it’s impossible when every corporate entity is drinking the same Kool-Aid – just in different flavours.

Whether it’s at work, at any grocery store, in malls, or even in elevators, Musak follows us like a wandering minstrel of mediocrity. Variety only comes in the style of Musak, not the content. Do I want to listen to an instrumental version of Air Supply’s “All out of Love” or would I rather listen to the live version? Do I take the orchestral version, the synthesizer interpretation, or the pan flute rendering from Zamphir’s Greatest Hits?

And instead of pacifying the masses, Musak can actually backfire. In one particular working environment that I’m familiar with, we’re blessed to have musical accompaniment in our workday. However, the service that provides the music seems to be stuck on a permanent loop. For any given one-month period, you’re treated to the same selection of songs – repeated each and every day. I try, as a general rule, to avoid Cher’s “Believe,” yet, short of taking a sick day, I know I’ll be subjected to it on a daily basis.

I may, one day, have to have a root canal that’s unavoidable, but don’t expect me to enjoy each and every day knowing that this particular musical procedure is on its way.

To top it off, our own brains work against us when it comes to filtering out Musak. Instead of filtering out the sludge and letting the cream rise to our consciousness, our brains seem to get a perverse pleasure out of subjugating the songs we may actually enjoy and only alerting us when the tunes we hate are polluting the air waves.

And I know I’m not alone in having one of these infernal songs insidiously worm its way into your consciousness – sticking in your head on an endless loop, unable to be willed out of your thoughts.

When it comes to music, variety is the spice of life. When I cook, I enjoy using a little bit of that and a little bit of this, depending upon the meal I’m creating and the mood that I’m in. I don’t choose to season each meal with the same amount of vanilla each and every time! So why do we expect the same of our music?

Musak distributors around the world, lend me your ears! If you’re going to infest our airwaves with this noise pollution, at least make an attempt to engage our consciousness. Though I may detest it, I’m willing to put up with a little modern country if that means that some ’70s funk may worm its way onto the playlist. Lay off the Phil Collins drum solos and infuse some steel drums, bouzouki, or even a djeridoo!

What’s the worst that can happen? You may wake us up from the stupor brought about by this non-offensive, vanilla-flavoured, which-shade-of-taupe-do-you-like-better, Musak for the masses. You may, in fact, engage our attention, broaden our minds, and make us more energetic and enthusiastic shoppers and workers. That sounds good to me!

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved