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The 69 Words GM Employees Can Never Say 373

Posted by timothy
from the ok-and-you-can't-say-that-number-either dept.
bizwriter (1064470) writes "General Motors put together its take on a George Carlin list of words you can't say. Engineering employees were shown 69 words and phrases that were not to be used in emails, presentations, or memos. They include: defect, defective, safety, safety related, dangerous, bad, and critical. You know, words that the average person, in the context of the millions of cars that GM has recalled, might understand as indicative of underlying problems at the company. Oh, terribly sorry, 'problem' was on the list as well."
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The 69 Words GM Employees Can Never Say

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  • Re:Corporate speak (Score:5, Informative)

    by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @10:31AM (#47046065) Journal
    Actually, avoiding certain words makes sense if those words bolster a legal case against GM, as a partial admission of guilt. Same reason your side mirrors still bear that stupid warning about objects being closer than they appear. Fix your silly legal system that allows anyone to sue anyone over anything, and if their case has any merit, gives them a chance to win the damages or out of court settlement lottery.

    Our own legal system mostly awards actual damages (which can still be quite high in injury suits), and orders only small awards for stuff like "mental anguish". Moreover, we do not have the notion of punitive damages, instead companies can be fined, with the proceeds going to the state, the object being to punish, not arbitrarily reward a wronged party.
  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <> on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @10:43AM (#47046215) Homepage Journal
    The summary goes so far as to tell us that it is Engineering employees who cannot use those words in specific types of communications. People outside that division can use those words, and people inside that division can use them in communications that are outside that list.

    GM has enough problems on its own without people distorting their message to make them sound worse than they are.
  • Re:Note to myself: (Score:5, Informative)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @10:45AM (#47046239) Homepage Journal

    If you've worked on GM cars, you know what he's talking about. They are mostly underbuilt and they are not built to be maintained, they have a severe love of rivets. They are also well-known for paint failure. The paint is one of the most important parts of the car, it protects the body which I am sure you will agree is a significant part itself.

    The up side of GM is parts interchange, which is by far above the other domestics. They also have some fantastic engines. The down side is everything else.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @10:57AM (#47046355)

    I prefer companies that are open about their problems than companies that try to hide problems with "disguised words".

    Easy to say when you are not the one at the pointy end of a multi-billion dollar lawsuit. Lots of people have plenty of courage in a semi-anonymous internet post. While I agree with you in principle the way the laws are written it isn't nearly as simple as you or I think it should be. As much as I'd like to see engineers speaking freely about problems, the consequences of doing so can be catastrophic when they don't know what they are doing. And I don't know too many engineers who are up to date on their product liability law.

    Fact is that NO lawyer worth his retainer would agree with you. The number of ways in which employees can get a company in serious financial trouble through even the most honest attempts to solve problems is HUGE. Employees can agree to contracts, "admit" to wrongdoing (even when there wasn't any), etc. There are VERY good reasons why companies tend to only let a few, carefully selected people who know what they are doing speak for the company. I've worked as an engineer at a large auto company and I had to get special permission to give a technical talk just due to the potential liability and trade secret issues involved.

  • NOT emails & memos. (Score:5, Informative)

    by asylumx (881307) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @11:01AM (#47046405)
    According to the WSJ article that the AOL article is "borrowing" from (and sensationalizing) these limitations are only applied to "documents used for reports and presentations."

    That's bad enough, but we really don't need to discredit them even more for limiting their employees ability to communicate with each other (which they haven't done). They are simply trying to keep emotion out of the official reports & presentations and stick to the facts. I actually don't blame them for trying to do this.
  • by jones_supa (887896) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @11:10AM (#47046493)

    It's a troll headline. Guys, it's not a strict list. Someone just crafted a bunch of examples [] for guidance. A few of those are even made tongue in cheek, such as "rolling sarcophagus".

    The another page [] of the guidelines shows the general idea: just try to use neutral and professional expressions instead of scary words.

    Nothing to see here, please move on...

  • Re:Corporate speak (Score:5, Informative)

    by penix1 (722987) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @12:14PM (#47047167) Homepage

    The other alternative for protecting yourself from lawsuits (besides never using the words the lawyers will find) is to delete all copies of all emails, memos, and presentations that are more than 6 months old. I have heard about a company that tries to use this method to reduce its legal exposure.

    There's a better alternative... Don't make fucked up shit that has to be recalled to protect people's lives. If a recall is necessary, do it as soon as the problem is identified. Don't wait for years to pass in the typical bean counter fashion in the hopes that less people will be hurt than product sold. Don't cover it up and pretend the problem never existed.

    In short, do the right thing and fix the damned thing before more people lose their lives. That is, after all, what we are talking about with most car recalls.

  • Re:Corporate speak (Score:1, Informative)

    by manu144x (3377615) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @01:05PM (#47047807)
    If you think there are no more homogeneous populations you clearly haven't visited North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, northern europe (norway, finland, all that) lately...they are 99.99% homogeneous. The places you speak of are probably capitalistic global countries like Singapore, Shanghai, US of A, Canada, and all others, where local traditions don't exist, and this mix of all cultures from all over the world who are there because of the economic situation.

Successful and fortunate crime is called virtue. - Seneca