Wordly Wise?

Watch your language.

That’s what GM’s managers believed. When they settled with the US Government over their bungled ignition-switch recall, they released a lot of internal documents. One was a presentation made in 2008 that explained the recall process to engineers, including how to document faults and engineering issues.

Naturally, management wanted its technical people to be careful about what they said. A lot of the advice is common sense, like imagine how folks would react if they saw your comments in the paper the next morning, and to focus on facts and avoid speculation.

But they went on to list 69 words that should never be used in print—terms like “good” or “problem” or “safety.” It’s understandable that the legal department doesn’t want a careless technician to refer to a product as a powder-keg, but telling someone to replace the term “problem” with “issue” or to change “defective” to “does not perform to design” sounds Orwellian.

I work in a regulated industry; I understand that terminology can have legal implications. Cervantes said that words have meaning, and names have power. But when you have to tell your staff not to compare a car to a grenade, maybe your problem—er, issue—is more than just vocabulary.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA

Chief Investment Officer

By |2017-07-17T12:34:18+00:00May 22nd, 2014|Global Market Update|0 Comments

About the Author:

Mr. Tengdin is the Chief Investment Officer at Charter Trust Company and author of “The Global Market Update”. The audio version of each post can be heard on radio stations throughout New England every weekday. Mr. Tengdin graduated from Dartmouth College, Magna Cum Laude. He received his Master of Arts from Trinity Divinity School, Magna Cum Laude and received his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1992. Mr. Tengdin has been managing investment portfolios for over 30 years, working for Bank of Boston, State Street Global Advisors, Citibank – Tunisia, and Banknorth Group. Throughout his career, Mr. Tengdin has emphasized helping clients manage their financial risks in difficult environments where they can profit from investing in diverse assets in diverse settings. - Leave a comment if you have any questions—I read them all! - And Follow me on Twitter @GlobalMarketUpd

Leave A Comment