Longtime FT management columnist Lucy Kellaway, a regular critic of “ugly business jargon,” singles out Howard Schultz as the foremost offender.
Seattle’s business titans are often in the international spotlight, and sometimes the glare can be harsh. Take, for instance, a piece Sunday in London’s The Financial Times, where longtime management columnist Lucy Kellaway, a regular critic of “ugly business jargon,” reflected on “How I lost my 25-year battle against corporate claptrap.”
The worst of the worst, according to Kellaway?
Let her tell it in her own unsparing way: “Howard Schultz is a champion in the bullshit space.”
After singling out the Starbucks executive chairman, she goes on to reflect that he “has provided me with more material for columns than any other executive alive or dead. Yet he is still at it, and still out-doing himself. Earlier this year, he announced that the new Starbucks Roasteries were ‘delivering an immersive, ultra-premium, coffee-forward experience.’ ”
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In Kellaway’s judgment, “In this ultra-premium, jargon-forward twaddle, the only acceptable word is ‘an.’ ”
She indicts Schultz for not only obscuring or overhyping with bad business verbiage but for devaluing the meaning of core words. “He has shown the way in the upping of the emotional ante… Thus, he recently sent an email to the 100,000 or so US staff, most of whom he has never met and many of whom earn about $10 an hour, with the sign-off “know that I send you my love and respect.”
Kellawy acknowledged that neither Schultz’s language nor her criticism has prevented him from making lots of money and “making a difference to the way half the world lives and drinks. It is largely thanks to him that we all wander around the streets carrying cardboard buckets of pale brown stuff that we slurp through plastic lids.”
Starbucks had no comment, jargon-forward or otherwise.