This is a super-duper edition in 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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public relations

When your relations with your public go badly, hiring a PR firm won’t help.

public sector

A bite out of the private sector.

public service

An oxymoron that describes the self-sustaining, amoral bureaucracy that supports the political party or coalition of the day – and its politicians.

public transport

Arriving late.

purchasing power

The blackmailing of suppliers into squeezing margins and taking all the risk, by demanding loyalty, then threatening to withdraw their orders.


If there is light at the end of the tunnel, it could be glaucoma.

‘put steps in place’

Outcome avoidance strategy.


Pseudo-expert whose ducks are not all in a row and who is not even a duck.


Consultants feel comfortable with four of anything, which is two more than managers feel comfortable with.


The experience of the inexperienced; the skill of the unskilled; the education of the uneducable.


Incomprehensible word-heavy analysis.


A standard that is temporarily satisfactory. Later on, you’ll be ashamed of what you deemed quality. And so on it goes. Continual improvement leads to self-hate.

quality control

The quality quota allocation process, through which it is determined how much quality is necessary for a product or service to be deemed to have the quality of quality.

quality of life

If there’s a heartbeat, you’re working.


Incomprehensible number-heavy analysis.


  1. A place to use my answer.
  2. Often begins with ‘who’, ‘why’, ‘where’, ‘when’ ‘what’ or ‘how’, and ends in a metaphorical interrogative, which, if you’re literate, or even numerate, will be perceived as a question mark: ‘?’


The belief that all races are the same – even in their differences.


Management academic with tenure.


An increase in an employee’s wage or salary, based on their negotiation ability.

raison d’être

The reason for our debt.


You agree with us.


Turning your whine into sour grape juice.


Normal management practice: to respond to real situations as they arise.


Putting the ‘I’ into realty.


Valuable technical skill, reasonably discarded when promoted to management.

reasoning, circular

(see circular reasoning)


Doing a personality test for the second time after failing the first one.


To brand again after branding failed the first time.


Rethinking someone’s achievements out loud.


Reverse garbage and vice versa.

red tape

The bloody ties that bind: something bureaucrats unwind in and everyone else gets wound up in.


What happens when your boss finds out what you actually do.


Engineer again to redesign you out of your job.


Fictional praising of underperforming employees in order to remove them from your payroll without a redundancy package.




Getting your money’s worth.


  1. A demotion.
  2. Output over(-)time [and cost {and so on}].


Incentivisation of managers so that they behave like rats.

reinventing the wheel

Reinventing the wheel.


Temporary alliances between individuals, groups or organisations, which last as long as their interests are overlapping.


  1. It all depends …
  2. A form of nepotism.


The notion that all issues are merely part of larger ones.


The standard by which all education is judged irrelevant.



repeat business


repeat customer


reporting mechanism

Managers burying feedback through the use of a mobile phone, gossip, a suggestion box or physical assault.


Changing potential buyers’ perceptions of a product or service by taking it upmarket or downmarket or varying its consumer context vis-à-vis its competitors,              without altering it in any substantial way.


Smiling at interviewers you would like to murder.


Finding a new reason for an organisation to exist. Often a useful distraction if things are going badly. For a business, acquisitions are effective on this front. For a government, war will work a treat.


Suffers when one is promoted; destroyed when one becomes CEO.


Tantamount to the approximate verisimilitude of shared subjectivity masquerading as objectivity.

research and development (R&D)

A twin organisational function with its own inbuilt scapegoat subgroup. Research can blame development, and vice versa. A self-destructive loss centre used as window-dressing to quell criticism that the organisation is doing the same old things all the time.


A balance sheet item with a zero next to it. This shows that the organisation is aware and responsible. Where did the obscene amount go? To the managers themselves, for being so prudent.


Career limiting move, and perhaps employment suicide. Not recommended, as the victim forfeits redundancy and other payouts. Wait for them to sack you. Either way, your résumé is diminished.


Consumable process inputs.


(anachronism) Entailed by the freedom to choose to deny that we are free to             choose.


A cover for lack of passion, direction or incentive that serves as an excuse of last resort.

(see holiday)


A way to fire people you don’t like. Favoured by management consultants because it is a project that requires no facts, logic or evidence to support it, and thus guarantees more employment for consultants.


Should be hidden until things improve.


Lying in acute chronological order.


  1. Someone who chose the wrong job.
  2. Someone at the stage before death.
  3. Subject of your jealousy.


Device used by CEOs to predict the past.

return on investment (ROI)

How much you expect to receive in exchange for your investment. Usually you would hope for more than you put in, but as deals progress, many investors settle for a break-even result, making much commerce merely occupational therapy.

reverse engineering

  1. Using the solution to retrofit the problem.
  2. An engineer going off the reserve.


  1. Ritual, self-serving incantation of ‘What do we want … when do we want it?’
  2. What lazy people go out of their way for.


The uncertainty that there isn’t any.


Management conference where the important issues are resolved at the bar.


Replacing squeaky wheels with well-greased ones.

role model

  1. When your biography is hagiography.
  2. Female executive with a low-cut dress.


The masks we hide behind to make us look like we know what we’re doing.

rule of thumb

That people see things differently. If you make a fist and extend your thumb, some people will think that you are saying ‘OK’, and others are offended that you are asking them to ‘sit on it and rotate’.

rules of the game

Machiavelli’s The Prince.


Something organisations give people who spend too much time in it.


Receptacle used by managers in which to store such precious items as subordinates’ psychological test results.


Payment in exchange for work, to employees who believe that they are indispensable.

salary packaging

That happy state in which pre-tax and after-tax earnings coincide.


  1. An individual or group who or which creates the need to buy when, if that need had been inherently present, the sale would have gone through already.
  1. The process by which people are turned into customers, creating in them an awareness that they need something that they didn’t even want before the sales process began.


  1. PR failure.
  2. PR success.


Taking pleasure in a competitor’s troubles, even though their problems do not help you. One of many unattractive human attributes. So it’s not your fault: enjoy!


Body of knowledge based on logical reasoning discovered by dead white males; under constant attack by those who find it difficult and suspect it might be true.

secret fund

Entrepreneur’s answer to government, spouse, ex-spouses and other creditors.


Making a pizza of marketing.


Being into yourself rather than beside yourself.


Emotional unintelligence.


Liking the person you love most.


  1. Insourcing.
  2. People helping themselves to help themselves.


Living alone.


Telling oneself to follow oneself and refusing to do it.

semi-autonomous work group

A collection of co-workers looking for direction.


  1. A forum where the lecturer asks the questions.
  2. Turning a conference into a seminary.

senior management team

Oligarchy that thinks it is an aristocracy.


  1. (noun) The value-add that differentiates products; missing from most sales processes.
  2. (verb) To repair or maintain a product that should not need repairing or maintaining.

sex discrimination

  1. Taste.
  2. Being able to tell the sexes apart.
  3. Chastity or celibacy.


The belief that the sexes are the same – even in their differences.

sexual harassment

When a co-worker makes you think that harass is two words.

shared values

When there aren’t enough values to go around.


  1. People with a legitimate interest in a firm.
  2. Suckers like us who believe that we can overcome share-trading transactions costs.

(see stakeholders)


As far as you can see.


Like a metaphor.


A game just like the real thing, except that it isn’t, and everyone playing knows it and plays accordingly.


  1. The missing link in management.
  2. Dyslexic assassin.


Industrial democracy.

social construction

The Pacific Ocean, until you are dropped in it.


What remains when individuals disappear.


The social and cultural layering of organised life, helpful in stratifying employees, suppliers and customers, so you know who – or whom – to send to the opera, who to send to the football, and who is going to be unimpressed by either or both.


For more copies of this excellent book, please use the order form in the back.

span of control

The unbridgeable distance between top management and the people at the bottom who do the real work, measured in strata titles.


Opposite of manager; hence lowly paid.


An articulate punt, just shy of an educated guess.


Irrelevant pedantry.


A management term redefined to reveal its true meaning.

spin doctoring

  1. Doctoring the truth.
  2. Sugaring bitter pills.
  3. The second best medicine.

spiritual intelligence

  1. Praying for a higher intelligence.
  2. When spooks come visiting.
  3. Praying to a higher intelligence.
  4. Preying on the foolish.


Human resource manager.

stable workforce

Suggestive of a lack of other job opportunities.


Disempowered junior employee, several strata below someone with authority.


  1. A Dracula-like figure ready to drive a pole into the very lifeblood of the organisation, for its own good and for the good of the industry. (Stake holder)
  2. A horticulturalist. (i.e., ditto)
  3. In the broadest sense, anyone at all.
  4. A dyslexic short-order chef. (Steak holder)
  5. A plea to not ‘stay hotter’. (Stay colder)


Raising the bar and then leaning against it.

standing in the shoes of others

  1. Footing the bill.
  2. Where one of you is redundant.
  3. Getting in the way.
  4. Being orthotic.
  5. Empathy with soul.
  6. Being rapport cousin.
  7. Being a foot soldier.
  8. Being a shoe thief.
  9. Being brought to heel by toeing the line.
  10. Justification for putting on socks.


Announcing a sentence.

statistical significance

A result that is significant statistically but not in any other way.


Originally this meant data that support the State and its leaders, but this deceitful, selective application of quantitative information is now entrenched in organisational life with the same purpose. Three out of four people make up 75 percent of the population. 86.43 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.



step up

Something managers are inclined to do in an escalating manner.


  1. Double trouble.
  2. An understudy.
  3. An HR profile.



strategic management

Thinking about having someone else somehow doing something sometime.

strategic planning

Thinking about somehow doing something sometime.


What we’re doing next week.


Fishing for efficiency.


Qualities managers own up to.


  1. Quasi-medical condition used to avoid work.
  2. Overstressed feature of managerial life, but only in the sense that managers impose it on others; the absence of which in humans is found only in cemeteries.


When workers prove their worth by not working.


The concept of converging and diverging parallel lines connecting the interfaces of the vertices of the dovetailing of the nexus of the organisation’s scaffolding.

(see Marksism, or at least look for it)


Someone lower than you in the hierarchy, whom you are happy to remind of this fact.


Failing a course in organisational behaviour.

succession plan


suggestion box

  1. Recycling bin.
  2. Safety valve for disgruntled employees.
  3. Safe deposit box.
  4. Lost property storage.


A goal pursued by half the human race. The other half pursue homicide. The balance are to decide on deicide.


A very big ego.


A very little ego.

support activities

Bottomless pit of demand for resources, often best left underfunded.


Choosing to repress.


An accidental profit hidden from government.


A research tool demonstrably invalidated by asking people what they want instead of what they do.


Ability to exploit in the future.

Swiss cheese

The management metaphor alluding to many small failures lining up to cause a catastrophe. Turning a big block of Swiss cheese will sometimes reveal a series of interconnected hollows all the way through.

(see ‘all your ducks are in a row’)

SWOT analysis

Key strategic planning session tool, illegibly handwritten in multi-colours on butchers’ paper. Emphasises strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as the road to the Holy Grail, without which there’s nothing to do but adjourn to the bar.


  1. Venture capitalists + mergers and acquisitions (M&A) lawyers + firms with which they have no relationship = money for venture capitalists + M&A lawyers.
  2. Marketing + finance = operations.
  3. 2 + 2 = 5.
  4. Organisation A + Organisation B = you lose your job.
  5. Coal + solar = wind.


Something with inputs, throughputs, transformations and outputs, the outcome from which should add value to the organisation.

systems thinking

Not so much the circuitous, annular, radial or circumlocutory process of creating a thinking system as a cyclic practice.


What we’re doing tomorrow.

tangible asset

Something valued because of an expected intangible benefit beyond its ephemeral tangibility.

target market


task completion syndrome


task force

A committee that gets things done.

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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.