I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I spent a few years working in call centres. 

By “not sure if I’ve mentioned it before”, I mean ‘have relentlessly relived those years in tweets, columns, podcasts and any other platform I can find in an exhausting and ultimately fruitless attempt to exorcise my customer service demons’. 

In that spirit, welcome to 850 words of me talking about life in call centres. 

Having endured that world as both a phone monkey and trainer, I’ve experienced every emotion it’s possible to feel in that environment, from despondent to very despondent.

That’s not the picture painted by the operators of these establishments, the lobbies of which are filled with images of smiling headset-sporters underneath meaningless slogans like ‘Turning Talent Into Progress’ and ‘Unbeaten At Exporting Solutions’. 

Of course, they would prefer former employees not to socialise information in this manner. If you’re wondering what ‘socialise information’ means, allow me to congratulate you on having never worked in a call centre. 

It’s one of numerous cringeworthy pieces of corporate jargon I heard in these buildings. Possibly with an eye to one day writing a cathartic newspaper column about it, I kept a note of the most excruciating examples. 

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Sometimes you would be going about your day, blissfully forgetting the bleakness of your surroundings, only to be brought crashing down to earth by a sentence like this arriving in your inbox: “John believes in building consistent and repeatable operational performance from a platform of highly engaged employees as well as utilising the energy and enthusiasm of his people to challenge convention and secure market leading outcomes.”

All I’ve changed is the name. I received that email about seven years ago and it still haunts me.

Someone sat down at a computer, typed out those words and attached their own name to that email, presumably without shame. 

During one of my stints as a trainer, a friend and I took part in weekly calls with the client, who was particularly fluent in businessspeak nonsense. After a few weeks, we started inserting our own meaningless terms into the conversation. 

At no point did the client ever question our suggestion that “sometimes you need to put your umbrella up before it starts raining”, express reluctance at our plan to “take this for a walk across 110% Street” or raise eyebrows at our warning not to “go shaking the lifeguard’s podium”. 

No matter what industry you’re in, if you’ve ever experienced office life you will at some point have encountered businessspeak.

You will almost certainly be familiar with big hitters like ‘going forward’ or ‘if you’ve got the bandwidth’, but if you’ve recently been promoted and intend to earn the contempt of your employees, you might need a refresher. 

The following are all terms that were genuinely said in front of me with a straight face on at least one occasion.


Tell people, basically. During my time as a customer service agent for an energy company, we were informed of an impending price change, the details of which were to be embargoed until the following morning. 

Our managing director - a man who mistakenly believed polo neck jumpers conveyed class and authority - warned us that “anyone caught socialising this information before tomorrow morning will be disciplined”. He meant “Don’t tell anyone”, but that would have been too much like plain English for the man with the comfy neck.

Only one person was disciplined for breaching the embargo. Given the fact that he made a paper aeroplane out of the internal memo, threw it out the window only to see it land on the managing director’s shiny head, he couldn’t really have too many complaints. 


Who’s got time to say ‘tell the people below you’? When you’re a call centre manager wanting to ‘socialise’ that information, you can’t be wasting time on a five-word sentence. No, your order will be to simply ‘cascade that’.

As well as being socialised or cascaded, information can be relayed through ‘tying in’ or ‘dialoguing’, as long as it’s confined to a ‘four-wall convo’. 


In which we take a ‘deep dive’ and discover whether we have secured enough ‘quick wins’ to ensure ‘adequate buy-in’. One day the people who perpetrated these attacks upon the English language will be held accountable for their crimes.


Call centres are big on ‘living the values’. In theory, this means delivering a professional, efficient service for customer and client alike.

In practice, this means being told to smile more while being paid £8.50-an-hour to receive abuse through a headset while having your toilet breaks monitored.


A classic of the genre. Cult filmmaker John Waters once said: “If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t f*** ‘em!”. While I admire Waters’ sentiment, I would amend his rule to “If you go home with somebody and they use ‘action’ as a verb…”

If you’re in a call centre and you’re using any of these terms unironically, please action socialising your resignation. By close of play, preferably.