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Delivering bad news is challenging. That's why many leaders weasel their way through that challenge by using euphemisms intended to soften the blow. Instead of you're fired, we use like outsourcing, offshoring, downsizing, or rightsizing. Or we use phrases with clinical descriptions of the people whose jobs we're eliminating, like resource action or reducing surplus human capital.

Last Friday, Verizon Communications announced plans to close four of its call centers. Or, in the jargon used by Verizon spokesperson Bill Kula, "We're adjusting to the dynamics of the telecommunications industry as it exists today and focusing our attention and employment support in the areas of growth and de-emphasizing the areas of depletion of the customer base." Translation: we're putting 1,600 people out of work.

The irony with euphemisms is that the action of firing people is still a distasteful one. As a result, the euphemism is as repulsive as the language it replaces. Does learning that your company is de-emphasizing the areas of depletion of its customer base make you feel any safer than hearing about mass firings?

Credible leaders are sincere and straightforward when delivering news--whether it's good news or bad. However, when you sidestep candor with euphemistic jargon, your message comes across as hollow and condescending. Always be direct, honest, and clear. Leave euphemisms to the politically correct. Otherwise, your resulting ineffectiveness as a leader--because of poor communication skills--might prompt your boss to ask you to please leave to pursue other interests.
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