Corporate Games

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in his theory of Language-games contends that people, as they communicate, are playing games with one another. The words a sender uses, the sentences that are thus formed have an ulterior motive. The recipient can only understand what is said if he understands what "game" the sender is actually playing. For example, when a parent warns a child – “Do not enter that room, there is a ghost.”, the parent isn’t stating any fact. He simply does not want the child to go in there. He is therefore playing a game of fear with the child. Thus humans, with the use of language, keep playing games with one another. 

While working at a corporate setup, I often enjoyed observing such statements and figuring out the motives behind them. The Management and HR always come up with interesting ways to hide the original intent in order to convince or control the employees. Here are a few that I had noted down back then - 



What they say - You have great potential and even greater growth opportunity here. Have patience! 


What they actually mean - Please don’t quit, I rely on you! stick around!



What they say - You can do better than this. 


What they actually mean - I can’t give you a higher performance rating than this and I have no idea how to justify that.



What they say (After seeing a strength finder test result) -  I don’t think that you have this quality as one of your top strengths. 


What they mean - My opinion about you is superior to any well researched psychometric test that ironically, I myself speak so high of.



What they say - We are going to grow as a centre. 


What they mean - We are going to add an extra floor and fill it up with more people! 



What they say - You have received very good feedback from your US counterpart. But as a practice, I would not upload it in the system.


What they mean - I am jealous and I don’t want you to go gaga over it.  



What they say - Company shares are down, Share market is crashing! inflation! Job loss in the US. And oh! here is your merit increase. Btw, you would be happy to know that you have received the best of the worst.

What they mean - I had to give your peer a higher merit increase. So, I had to pull it out from your percentage!


What they say (Manager, after seeing strength finder test result) - You don’t have ideation among your top 5 strengths? 

What they mean - I knew you are useless. None of your other strengths matter to me. 



What they Say - It’s not me, it’s the management, the HR who want you fired.


What they mean - It’s me! It’s me! I am just cooking up a believable story for you and the others.



What they say - Your idea is good. But, here is a different way of looking at it. Why don’t you explore this instead?


What they mean - Your idea sucks! I am more experienced and you better develop on mine.



What they say - Everything isn’t black or white. You should be able to work in grey areas too. 


What they mean - I have no idea what you should be doing because I have no vision. But let me just blame it on you.



What they say - You have to be proactive and creative. Working 12 hours a day is not necessary. 


What they mean - You are doing everything you are supposed to do for a promotion, I don't know how to manage you.



What they say - I don’t think you are ambitious. I do not see you stay back or work long hours. 


What they mean - I want you to leave office after I have left. 



What they say - I have people who can do anything I say, almost immediately. 


What they mean - You have competition my dear / You are not maskafying (flattering) me enough.



What they say - Guys, we are going with a market correction on your salaries. We realise that some of you are underpaid. 


What they mean - Many are quitting the organisation, we need to shoot up the salary; like right now!



What they say - You know what you should be doing to grow to the next level? - Generate business proposals.


What they mean - We don’t have approved projects for this year and my boss is threatening me with the same crap. Please help me build a pipeline!



What they say - I visualise...(Means I ideate) I only define strategies...(Means I am a strategist) The philosophy behind it...(Means I am a thinker) 


What they mean - I am repeating these words in every conversation so that eventually they would help the management define my personality.


What they say - No doubt you are good at your work. But you need to improve your communication. 

What they mean - Your work is secondary. The way you promote it is more important to me. 


What they say - You have to be visible. 

What they mean - You aren't flattering the management enough to get promoted. 


What they say - If we fail in this, heads are going to roll.

What they mean - I am warning you. You might be fired if you do not perform. 


What they say - It is not about what you achieved but how you achieved that matters. 

What they mean - I need to somehow justify the lower performance rating despite your successes. 



Do you have such lines to share? Let me know in the comments section. 



  1. AnonymousJuly 31, 2022

    Bitter truth in a corporate !!

  2. Forecasts are adjusted (it means reduced).
    Employees are being right sized (it means they will be laid off).
    Operating revenue is high when compared to operating expenses (it means the company is relying on financial engineering to mask a weak condition).

  3. I know you. I think you are not contributing to your full potential.

    1. Good one! This is often used as an Euphemism to - "You are not putting enough efforts" or "YOu are not competitive.". Thanks.

  4. The comments are more or less than like any other work places. But yes corporate topping the chart as always.


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