The Business Passive.

In business, ways of saying things catch on fast. One construction that used to bug me, but now just entertains me is “It would be great if…”. It used to grate on me. Now I joke with a couple coworkers about it, restating the meaningless to sound stronger: “Greatness would ensue if you could write up that report.” This is a form of the business passive, a grammatical construction that is part voice, part mood.

The telltale sign is trying to obscure the fact that you’re asking for something by declaring that a general greatness (or awesomeness, or even superfantasticness) would arrive if someone could simply perform a task you’d like done. It’s also key to not be too direct about it. Even “It would be great if you wrote the document” may too direct; to be safe, go with “It would be great if you could write the document”.

Now, sometimes someone gets really desperate for a task to be completed. They enter the stronger (weaker?) form of business passive. “It would be great if that report were written by end-of-quarter.” This works best when there are only two people involved in this conversation. It also leads to a wonderful reinterpretation. “Yes, I agree, greatness would truly have been achieved if that report were to show up right before the end of the quarter, fully written!”

The leap I take at this point (and it is a leap) is that this may not simply be a problem of brevity, clarity, and sensibility. I think it’s a problem of confidence. People tend towards this voice when asking to do things that really aren’t important. They themselves don’t even truly want to see a task done, so they feel uncomfortable asking for it, so they rationalize, assuming that someone somewhere wants this enough that “it would be great” to do.

I can’t be sure of that, but there is one thing that I can be sure of. If you’re not actually willing to “own” the fact that you’re asking someone to act, you shouldn’t be asking them to. Do it yourself, or define the task to a point where you know its valuable enough for you to delegate.


  1. matthew Said,

    August 18, 2014 @ 18:46

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    ñýíêñ çà èíôó!!…

  2. claude Said,

    August 19, 2014 @ 13:04

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  3. max Said,

    November 14, 2014 @ 12:31

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    thanks for information….

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