Tuesday, February 09, 2016

"Disappointed" is the weasel's weasel word

When FT columnist Lucy Kellaway was less than respectful about some airy fairy remarks made by Hewlett Packard boss Meg Whitman at Davos, a wise head of marketing and communications would have told his boss to just suck it up as the price you pay for speaking in public.

Instead he did the single most disastrous thing you can do, which is pen a formal letter saying how "disappointed" the company was with Kellaway's column. Of all the weasel words in the contemporary lexicon of passive-aggressiveness, where the objective is always to cast yourself in the role of the victim, "disappointed" is the one I loathe the most.

And now the story is about him, which is never a good look. He's now made his boss look like somebody who can't fight her own battles. He looks like somebody who runs round trying to anticipate her wishes by kicking the nearest arse available. And he's made this publicly-quoted company look as if they make marketing and advertising decisions based on what side of bed they happen to have got out in the morning.

Nice "communications" work.


  1. Sadly for Mr HP he chose the one newspaper least dependent on advertising - certain other dailies would have sacked Ms Kellaway snd published a front page apology.

  2. Lucy Kellaway's podcast is one of the most entertaining and insightful podcasts you can listen to (apart, of course, from The Word podcasts!)even if you don't understand most of what is written in the FT!

    Their reaction is typical of most badly run Corporations and a classic case of shooting the messenger. Except they can't even do that properly! Hopefully Meg Whitman will deal a strip off him for being so inept.


  3. The letter wot he wrote sounds to me like a standard finger-wagging form letter. Something he composed at leisure with the standard corporate bullshit reference handbook to hand and open at every page. He may well have consulted his staff whilst working on it. It smacks of committee.

    Inserting the names of the "participants" is supposed to lend authority and make it seem a unique letter.

    Whatever, it's something he knew would be just the thing to launch at any upstart who dared not to fawn at the mere mention of the company. The threat of advertising removal was icing on the thing.

    Nul Point.

  4. One of the comments on the FT article picked up on the word disappointed as well. It said "I have noticed the way that everybody now seems to use the word "disappointed" precisely in the passive aggressive manner you point out. People using the word in this fashion really need to take a good, hard look at themselves and realise that they do not sound like Don Corleone from the Godfather, they sound like David Brent's tedious boss from the office."