In this bumper edition, we continue the episodic publication of The Management Contradictionary (Benjamin Marks, Rodney Marks, and Robert Spillane. Michelle Anderson Publishing: Melbourne).

It’s available in all good libraries, and quite a few bad ones, too. The book is in alphabetical order, so feel free to keep reading the blog posts – past, present and future – from eh? to zzz.

The Management Contradictionary defines the real meaning behind management terms.

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PA (personal assistant)

  1. Someone to give your work to.
  2. Someone to talk to.
  3. Someone who keeps your gate.
  4. Someone who makes your long list short.
  5. A masculine Ma.


What you feel when your PA is not IN.

paperless office

  1. Evidence of off-site storage.
  2. Office you haven’t moved into yet.


When a lawyer says: ‘All lawyers are liars’.


Something that is bound to border on constraint.

parent company

Archaic organisational entity which implies subsidiary/head office rivalry and internecine warfare based on the centralisation of power.

participative management

A common hallucination, two drinks short of a shared vision.


A coalition of equals that uses the democratic decision-making process of majority rule. If it is a partnership of two, then one partner is redundant.


A way for organisations to cut down on their wages costs whilst attracting goodwill from a hoodwinked public. A part-time job structure is given to people with things other than work in their lives. Let us assume that two part-time workers are notionally half-time. They would usually work 60 percent of a full-time role each, due to changeover debriefings, felt guilt, and dedication, giving the organisation a 20 percent productivity bonus. This scandal must be exposed.


Managers who can find the way to the executive washroom.


What you need in order to hang out for the next anti-climax.

payback period

The length of time that it takes to be back where you started from, before you risked what you did. If you had been risk averse, you’d be there already by doing nothing.

payment by results

Fiction; never happens.


  1. Internal auditor with a penchant for purple.
  2. A self-censor.

peer group

Mutual excuse for conformity.



per capita

A numerator for any productivity measure that requires humanisation.

perfect knowledge

The only thing we’re certain we don’t have.


  1. Sometimes used to denote positive achievement, but generally ignored in favour of personality.
  2. Acting as if you’re working.

performance appraisal

Personality appraisal.


What poorly motivated people have to fall back on.

personnel appraisal

A politically correct from of verbal abuse.


  1. Expecting everything to come out as expected.
  2. Excuse for laziness.

(see optimism)


Advertising targeted at the poor.


Traditionally the love of wisdom, superseded by the love of power.


  1. Applauding the illiteracy of internet scribblers by stealing.
  2. A tribute without attribution.
  3. Finding intellectual property before it is lost.

planned obsolescence

  1. The state of redundancy in which something needs replacing as soon as it’s paid for. Excellent for IT gurus and marketers.
  2. The only successful evidence of planning.


A game plan to avoid work by prognosticating; variations include: strategic planning, business planning, financial planning, scenario planning, contingency planning, as well as Plan B and planned obsolescence.


Along with the other physical resources of an organisation – property and equipment – plant constitutes the genuine asset base available to be frittered away by strategists, financiers and marketers.

‘please wait, your call is important to us’

Fuck off.


Half of the management profession. Truncated tautology – any management phrase beginning with ‘strategic’.


Under the boardroom table.


Management consultants with guns.


The answer to why we do what we do around here when there’s no reason for it.


Insincere form of address used by gatekeepers and other frustrated actors.

political correctness

Opinions one may express without receiving a slap to the head.


Nihilistic anti-philosophy and undergraduate fetish that claims that nothing is important except itself, and equates a pair of boots with Shakespeare. The triumph of bullshit over science. The standard by which nothing is judged, including itself.


Someone who believes that it is true that there are no truths and that it is a fact that there are no facts.


What you, yourself, had before you were actualised.


The absence of wealth creation programs.

The presence of wealth creation programs.


The central concept in management, as the disinclination to talk about it suggests.


  1. Something managers correctly profess to do but which still doesn’t make management a profession.
  2. What’s left of management after the recognition that it is neither science nor art.


Doing what the boss wants.


American philosophy of self-indulgence based on the assumption that truth is what works; much favoured by managers to legitimate their feelings and contradictory ideas: ‘Does it work for you?’


An incisive précis that cuts to the quick.

predatory pricing

Being so competitive as to force the competition to resort to name-calling, having crippled their production, marketing and financing processes.


  1. To prepare on someone else’s time.
  2. Foreplay without the post-play. Or the play.


The syndrome of having people take a day off without drawing on sick pay.

press conference

A meeting between various in-house and external media people, at which agreement is sought on which version of the truth to tell their audiences.

press release

Periodic escape of information.


Something that you were supposed to have supposed already, supposedly.


The maximum the seller can sell it for and the minimum the buyer can buy it for.

price cutting

Sacrificing profit for turnover, sales and market share, in the hope that being busy will make those you report to think that you are effective.

price fixing

Sensible agreement not to confuse consumers with too much choice.

price sensitivity

The falling off of demand at the slightest whiff of news of a price increase. Best to conceal the real price by bundling products and services, making price comparisons impossible. This technique is widely used in the IT and health insurance industries, among others.

price war

Just like a real war, but just.


In schools or professional partnerships, leaders with responsibility but no authority, continually struggling with impossibly competing priorities.


  1. What you stand on as you disappear into the quicksand of corporate life.
  2. Dispensable ethical standards.


Tasks with varying levels of importance and urgency that you will get around to as soon as you’ve finished your work.

private sector

That part of organised society that is neither nonprofit nor government, but funds both.


Always thinking about, planning for and resourcing your team to be aware of the myriad possible events that could affect your business, thereby atrophying all spontaneity, innovation and creativity.

probability assessment

Valid about the same proportion of times as tossing a coin will result in its landing on its side.


What managers are paid to solve but actually create.

problem finder

  1. Psychiatrist.
  2. Management consultant.
  3. Perfectionist.


Things to put in place.


  1. Management style in favour of crastinating.
  2. Default management style.


The consumer’s best friend.


Unlike a service, something tangible and worthwhile.

product differentiation

Making the bells and whistles more important than the train.


The act of creating a product. Production processes are best left to engineers and concealed from the rest of the so-called management team.


  1. Obtaining the same output from reduced input.
  2. Obtaining more output from the same input.
  3. Doing more or the same with less.
  4. The quotient of output over input.
  5. None of the above, but something nebulous that can be increased to turn an organisation around.


  1. Any occupation that requires pre-career and ongoing training, is accredited or self-regulated, pays its members less frequently than every week or, in the case of some professions such as poets, artists and actors, never.
  2. ‘The Professions’, on the other hand, relates to accountants, auditors, actuaries, lawyers, doctors, dentists and the like, as compensation for their being the butt of most good jokes.
  3. Not management.


Anyone other than a professor who professes to belong to a profession. Not a manager.

professional disagreement

A misunderstanding that each party to an agreement is paid for, even if all viewpoints are wrong.

professional relationship

A relationship based on money.


When income is greater than expenditure, the executive salary bonus system needs overhauling.

profit centres

Those parts of an organisation worth keeping.


A document that assists you with the plot. Subtitles are better. If policy is the strategy, then a program is a tactic in the implementation of that strategy; if strategy is the ‘why’, a program is the ‘what’.


Moving experience, for which there is no temporal evidence, in which the future is thought to be better than the past.


  1. Having a good look at something.
  2. A press release.


Prospect: us.

Protestant work ethic

We’re working on it. Pray for us.


That test product or service, with at least one fatal flaw, bug, glitch or fault line, which is worth leaking to your competitors.

provision for bad debts

  1. Quantified pessimism.
  2. Qualified optimism.
  3. Marketing’s mistakes transferred to Finance’s problems.
  4. Honest assessment of clients’ honesty.
  5. Permission for Accounts Receivable to fail.


Professional drug dealers and the new jailers. Modern witch-doctors. Inventors of imaginary illnesses.


Putting the anal into psychology.

psychological determinism

We’re not to blame.

psychological tests

Putting the litmus paper of the psyche into the snake oil of tyrants; widely used by managers to control other managers. A self-destructive enterprise if ever there was one.


A study of ghosts in the machine; popular with managers who use it to manipulate others, but are its first victim.


Unlike the neurotic who upsets himself, the psychotic upsets others, and is thus locked up in the executive suite.

public policy

The general foundation of government practice as generally publicised to the general public. The real basis for government practice is, of course, never released, and always denied, even in the face of Freedom of Information legislation. When confronted with the facts, bureaucrats can happily shift focus, change the face of the issue and recontextualise by saying that the full picture cannot be known due to national security matters. And they can parade a General to verify that assertion.

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Rodney Marks

I’m an Australian corporate comedian, performing comic hoaxes at business events. If you like these blogs, you’ll like my live comedy. If you don’t like these blogs, you still might like my live comedy.

Add to your bookmarks, and one day: book Marks. I don’t do cheap jokes, and I’m freer than you think. I’m comical not anatomical, economical not astronomical.

For more info – and to contact me directly – see my LinkedIn profile, and website: I’m based in Sydney and travel widely.