It started earlier this year and peaked in summer.
A saying had crept into emails, conversations and conference calls. Crept in like some kind of invasive species being harbored by the innocent.
“I’ll reach out.” “We reached out.” “Let’s reach out.”
One crazily busy day I took notes and counted 20 occurrences … before noon. I shuddered … we were in deep.
Conference calls were especially prone to it. Example
Call Leader Q: “What’s the status on X?
Someone, anyone A: “We’ve reached out to (any name/any department) but there’s no update available at this time.”
Call Leader Q: “What are your next steps?
Someone, anyone A: “We/I will reach out again then we’ll reach back to you with an update.”
It officially had become the catch phrase for saying you’d done nothing at all.
It was the new cover.
Think about it .. it sounds so gentle that no one’s ever going to challenge it. Let alone .. follow-up on it.
Oh good gravy.
It’s overdone, misused and now .. meaningless.
The funniest instance happened during a regularly scheduled call at a regularly scheduled time with regularly scheduled participants and a regular percentage therein who regularly … were never heard from.
One such person was called upon.
A scuffling of papers and scraping sounds ensued.
The reply, “Uh .. sorry I was multi-tasking, could you repeat the question?” Followed by a mumbled promise to reach out.
I reached out to ensure the phone’s mute button was fully engaged before I LOST it. Lost it. Laughed so hard I cried. In my office. Pounding my desk. Feeling like the only sane person in the asylum. That’s when I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t trust myself not to blurt out “Oh good gravy” on a call.
I paid attention to my words.
I steadfastly avoided the term.
I shared my feelings with my team and challenged all of us to use action words that actually meant something. Words like: called, wrote, stopped by, checked in on, held a meeting with, followed up with, etc. And, I also made sure everyone knew that if they were called upon and found they’d missed a step, they could admit it and we’d could go on. The last thing I wanted was a team giving me mumbled promises about reaching out.
It’s taken time but there’s been a shift. Or maybe I’m desensitized. Not sure.
By all means reach out – but can we save it for charity, compassion, kindness, and … the Four Tops?
What particular office vernacular makes you cringe? How are you at “touching base,” developing “synergies,” picking “low hanging fruit,” and “brainstorming?”