We continue another extended blog (web blog) 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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Facing the task.


Facing the East.


Lip-service to culture.


Repeating the same thing twice.

tax accounting

That set of accounts which shows the smallest possible profit, and preferably a loss. There are completely different sets of accounts to show your staff, your partners and yourself – the latter including any untraceable cash receipts.


Differs from other theft only insofar as it is generally misunderstood to be just.

team player

Person lacking initiative.

temperature of an organisation

Cheeky medical metaphor measuring managerial anal-retentiveness, manifested as the manager’s belief that he is a thermostat rather than a thermometer.

(see cranial-rectal extraction and climate)


Manage us not into temperance.

test market



Written proof that you’ve wasted your time seeking institutional approval from a college or university, or from society, when you could have been seeking approval from a real live person, for money.

Theory X

Employees are lazy.

Theory Y

No they’re not.


Talking to a better class of person.

thou shalt not

Serious sanctions-supported suggestions.



Indirect incentives.


  1. Drinking Australian champagne.
  2. Naming it so.


  1. Transformation, often on a transcendental level.
  2. What you put through something.
  3. The process between input and output.
  4. What actually happens in the process of creating a service or product. Senior managers do not know how things are manufactured or created, so this useful wastepaper basket word can be applied to make them look knowledgeable.


Either a denominator or a numerator, depending on where you did your math. Or in a pluralistic society, maths.

time and motion study

A method to test whether employees move intertemporally.

time in lieu

The organisational cost of irritable bowel syndrome, brought on by indigestible management decisions.

time management


Times New Roman

This is a formal font enhanced by curly bits and is the style of choice for snail mail. When it is crucial to say things that can be retracted, Times New Roman is your tool.

to-do list

Something else to remember.


Absence of principle (except for that one), which knows no limit (except for that).


Holistic manager.

toxic managers

A waste of office space.

TQM (Total Quality Management)

Continuous self-flagellation.


A word used to describe the uptake of ideas, as in ‘Getting traction leads to action’. Similar to ‘Hitting the ground running’.

trade association (also industry association)

A group of employers claiming special needs over those dictated by the marketplace.

trade unionists (also labor unionists)

  1. Economic illiterates who falsely believe that they can increase wages they don’t pay by advocating the punishment of those who wish to accept deals the union does not endorse.
  2. A group sensitive to criticism.


Dancing with the dead.


Chairman of the Board.


Education that has a purpose.


State induced by attending an AGM.


Psychiatrists telling clients they are mad.


The belief that you are not yourself but that you will be one day.


A person or service or product on the way out.


  1. Accountability adopted after the PR budget is spent.
  2. Something that you can read from while maintaining eye contact with the audience.

trend analysis

Codifying the past; fashionable tool for measuring how quickly history will continue to set theory.

tried and tested

Wearing a tie.


  1. Management naivety.
  2. Management naiveté.


A debased concept that used to mean ‘in accordance with the facts’, but now means ‘it works for me’. In management, subordinated to power.


Because it’s best that you don’t see it.

Type A managers

  1. Taiwanese capital executives.
  2. Cause themselves heart-attacks.

Type B managers

B-grade managers who spend all day alphabetising their tasks.

Type C managers

  1. Cause heart-attacks in others.
  2. Create growth – in themselves.


That which is unknowable but psychoanalysts assume and managers fall into. Final resting place of the conscience.


To move to the left what had been moved to the right.

(see Liberal Party of Australia)


  1. A New Age person.
  2. A bed of couscous at a pesco-vegetarian restaurant.


Principled board members.

unity of command

A claim that all the organisation’s leaders have the same values, vision and mission, and that they are familiar with the latest justifications for implementing any necessary draconian measures.

unity of purpose



Something that applies equally to everyone and everything – like management theory, McDonald’s and democracy.

university of life

  1. Cultivated ignorance.
  2. If you graduate from the university of life, you die.
  3. Graduate from the school of hard knocks.
  4. Excuse for having failed high school.
  5. A person qualified by a degree of chip-on-the-shoulder.

unskilled workers

Managers with pre-career MBAs.


A position attractive to brand-conscious consumers.




The theory that goodness is good.


A really small unit of measure, so tiny that even the concepts of management theory can be quantified using it.


Workplace without managers.

value judgement

  1. A good thing.
  2. Good in some situations.
  3. They exist, for better or for worse, and sometimes for neither.
  4. A bad thing – science must be value-free.


Something to fall back on when the cashflow doesn’t.

variable costs

Expenditure items that you can’t do a darn thing about, but at least you can get them off the balance sheet.

veil of ignorance

Deaf ear, blind eye, transparent résumé.

venture capital

  1. Capital you’d almost venture to use if it were your own.
  2. Money you don’t need to return.

vertical integration

Popular among firms with CEOs who are control freaks – such as former CFOs – who like owning all elements of the production and distribution chain, irrespective of profitability.

very good

A balanced scorecard in search of excellent.

vice versa

Versa vice.

virtual knowledge

Knowing knowledge and ideas related thereto.

virtuous organisation

Good and service replacing goods and services.


  1. The management retreat at a beautiful resort, number two in the sequence: values, vision, mission. Don’t forget the butcher’s paper, whiteboard and PowerPoint
  2. A representation of how the organisation would look without debt, cash flow challenges or shareholders to report to.
  3. A perfect response when you don’t understand the detail of a problem: ‘Is this congruent with our vision?’
  4. Something that the CEO has at a management retreat, after too much alcohol and caffeine, followed by too little sleep.

wage or wages

Payment dispensed to dispensable employees. The plural makes it seem like more money.


Time between milestones.

walking the talk

Tap-dancing and fire-walking with the masses.


  1. Destructive crater of management metaphors.
  2. Failed crisis management.
  3. Successful issues management.


Palatable location for placing over-ordered stock in orderly lines.


Used for measuring the economic worth of an MBA subject.

way forward, the

Useful to employ when asked about plans for the future, as it gives you time to think of an answer.


Always denied by mentioning strengths.


A financial state rarely felt by the wealthy, as the human appetite for security is insatiable.

weasel words

Words deliberately designed to avoid meaning or commitment: the impactful behavior of demystifying  cultural embedment.


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what works

Thinking that feelings are more important than thoughts.


  1. Someone who publicly announces his retirement.
  2. Referee.
  3. Arbiter.
  4. Judge.
  5. Adjudicator.
  6. Mediator.
  7. Conciliator.
  8. Umpire.
  9. High priest.
  10. Moraliser.

(see martyr)


The uniform of the clerical class, worn so that they will not inadvertently be required to do useful work, which would be embarrassing all round.

white-collar crime

  1. Crime that pays.
  2. Getting away with it.
  3. Not getting away with it.


White-collar criminals.


One of the four quadrants of a particularly useful negotiation theory matrix. The others are: win-lose, lose-win and lose-lose.


Rational self-interest, which, if enacted, would eliminate war, religion and management.


  1. Someone who says that management is a joke.
  2. Management (adjective) jokes (noun).
  3. Management (noun) jokes (verb).
  4. managementjokes.com


Also known as a fool, because his testimony will be discounted.


Something managers get done through other people.

work experience

  1. Anthropology for the young.
  2. Sociology for the youngish.
  3. Psychology for the young at heart.
  4. Zoology for the not-so-young.


Successful senior executive with a chauffeur, driven to work.


A workplace romance without a partner.

work-life balance

A see-sawing, pendulous arc of a continuum, always as wrong as it is right.

world class

We’ve been on the internet and have copied the very best.

world first

As far as we can tell, if you buy this, you’ll be going where no one has gone before.


Clicking the right-hand button on a computer mouse, or the right button on a notebook computer touchpad, which reveals uncertainties. Also known as right-clicking.


World Trade Organisation; not Well Thought Of.

www (wise weasel words)

A random compilation of malicious gossip and unsubstantiated anecdotes, as useful as a clock to a pig.


Someone who would correct your spelling and alphabetisation when you are out of line. Or alignment.


Those who undermine the old.


A growing market.


  1. One after the antepenultimate.
  2. Two after the preantepenultimate.
  3. This.
  4. Given that there are a range of options and opportunities and possibilities to discuss just before the final point, it would seem to us – and this is something from which we, the authors, would find it hard if not impossible to resile – that, at this point in time, in the development of management language, there is a need to set clear boundaries and say, ‘This far, and no further’. But maybe just one last thing.

zero-based budgeting

Budgeting for zeros.

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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 comedian.com.au 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: www.comedian.com.au. I’m based in Sydney and travel widely.