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Leadership > Ideas

Jack Dorsey to Employees: Name-Dropping Makes You Look Dumb

A Note From The Editor

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Yesterday, Square CEO Jack Dorsey published an email he wrote to employees back in 2012.

We can only speculate on why he chose to post this now, but the email itself is interesting: short and to the point, it chides employees for failing to take ownership of their ideas.

"I’ve noticed a funny thing in the company," Dorsey writes. "There’s been a high occurrence of folks using names, mine for instance, to push through an idea.' Jack really wants this to happen, Jack thinks this is an amazing idea, Jack said, etc.'" 

Dorsey's point is not that name-dropping is annoying (even though it is), but that using a higher-up's name as a shortcut to legitimacy strips individuals of both accountability and authority, while instantly diminishing the idea's merit.

Related: 5 Excuses That Shouldn't Stop You From Bringing Your Ideas to Life

Language matters. So does perception. The way we frame and present an idea is often just as important as its intrinsic value. That's because we're incredibly good at picking up on subtle language cues. Even seemingly throw-away words, like pronouns, say a lot: High usage of the first person pronoun, for example, is an indication of low self-esteem as well as a lower position on the totem pole. (Studies have found that people in dominant roles -- both socially and in the workplace -- use "I" noticeably less than their subordinate counterparts.)

Pronoun choice is subtle, and yet we're able to unconsciously pick up on it. Name-dropping is the antithesis of subtle; imagine its effect. "Because the boss wants it," is one of the laziest arguments out there. An idea may be fantastic, but if it's presented in those terms, good luck getting people excited about it.

"Simply: if you have to use someone else’s name or authority to get a point across, there is little merit to the point (you might not believe it yourself)," Dorsey writes. "If you believe in something to be correct, focus on showing your work to prove it. Authority derives naturally from merit, not the other way around."

Related: Jack Dorsey on Launching Twitter and His Top Advice for Young Treps