Some companies attempt to set themselves apart by branding themselves as more than just a business. Instead, companies like these purportedly hold higher purpose. The only thing is, these identities are usually propped up by loads of rhetorical bullshit.
Look no further than WeWork, for a corporate unicorn that rocketed to global acclaim, only to crumble when its IPO collapsed, partly because its S-1 paperwork was riddled with “yogababble.”
The truth is, there are tons of companies out there who abide by the same rulebook that WeWork rode until its spectacular decline, and when you’re applying to a job, you want to be wary of the meaningless corporate drivel, if only to avoid working for a company that might be masking broader inefficiencies under souped-up rhetoric.
What is yogababble?
Even if you haven’t come across the term, chances are you’re familiar with yogababble, which is interchangeable with a host words that aptly define hollow corporate lexicons (see: jargon, buzzwords, etc.).
Yogababble, however, is indicative of a newer kind that tends to be employed by tech-savvy firms that traffic in ideas about evoking broad societal change through whatever it is they sell, sometimes imparted via vagaries related to spirituality. The phrase was coined in 2019 by the NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway, related specifically to WeWork’s doomed IPO prospectus in the same year.
Usually, this kind of trap isn’t even subtle, as it’s sprinkled throughout company mission statements and the “about” sections of myriad corporate websites. The thing is, there’s a direct correlation between the level of yogababble used by a company and the direness of its financial returns, specifically when it comes to shareholders.
Galloway explained how this works in a video in 2019:
To be sure, this isn’t something solely endemic to billion dollar companies, though it has taken a pervasive root among major corporate leaders. Smaller companies have leveraged the seeming necessity of yogababble, as well.
How to recognise yogababble before applying for a job
When perusing a job listing and reading about a company, ask yourself a simple question: Do you understand what a company does and what its values are after reading through a corporate mission statement or an “about” section?
If a company claims to “leverage existing synergies between corporate stakeholders and emergent technologies, in an effort to spark societal change and breed innovation,” chances are you’re being sold a load of yogababble. It needn’t be pure yogababble, either — traditional corporate jargon is rampant too, and doesn’t need to dabble in spiritual themes to wreak of confounding clichés.
The bottom line: If you’re more confused about a company’s purpose after reading about its higher calling, don’t apply, as you might be walking into a house of cards.
Why you shouldn’t apply to companies that use yogababble
This type of rhetoric is often a bandaid for damning problems that a company might be facing. Instead of finding that higher calling through working there, it’s more likely that a company that rests its reputation on some unclear mantra will have deep-seated issues that negatively affect the longevity of your job and your working experience.
WeWork was notorious for making its employees work long hours for low pay. Uber faced an internal and public reckoning over its treatment of women employees and the behaviour of its former CEO Travis Kalanick in 2017 (currently, the company’s tagline is “We ignite opportunity by setting the world in motion,” whatever that means). You can likely name more examples. This culture is so widespread that its become part of the broader corporate culture, with everyman LinkedIn profiles boasting self-appointed titles like “chief accounting ninja,” or “change alchemist.”
It’s more than possible that whatever platitudinal jargon a company employs is just masking its feckless — or possibly even reckless — leadership. So, essentially, if a company cloaks itself in a yogababble blanket or spews corporate platitudes to lure you in, it’s all the more reason to stay far away.