I try desperately to be humble but it is so hard. Sometimes I feel like everybody on my team has Dunning-Kruger effect, while other times I feel like I must not be a very skilled or competent software engineer that I continue time and time again to end up working with people whom I feel are highly incompetent, unprofessional and embarrassing.

I somewhat like the coworkers at my current company but something that has become part of the vernacular here I feel is highly embarrassing for my team and for myself when we start to communicate with vendors and consultants.

Specifically one incorrect use of a word that I have seen confuse our consultants is the use of the word Systemic to describe an automated process, specifically one that is going to replace a workflow that currently is being done manually by a user.


The system shall systemically perform a validation check...

Hi Bob, Did you ever get a chance to talk to the users about if the A process can be done systemically?

I think what they meant to say was Systematically however I am still not sure that even that is the right word to describe an automated process. Certainly systemically to me seems to have either a negative connotation or a permanence of nature that is inappropriate for referring to easily changeable software.

I hate being on our side of the table when they talk, especially when people on my team ask elementary questions because I can see in the consultant's eyes a drained look as if they are expelling energy trying to not be paternalistic and condescending, much the same way I feel working with them as well.

I sometimes feel that I would be happier as the consultant as I could probably tell them without too much fuss that this word doesn't mean what they think it does, as well as try to correct them in other ways so they don't seem so ridiculous. As an employee though I have found countless times that I can speak for the right idea a thousand times but nobody will act on it or take it seriously until a consultant tells them the same thing.

Is there an appropriate way to correct the team on the use of the word, as an employee, without coming off as condescending? I just find it so draining to try and be humble and hold back my true feelings around them every single day.

  • 2
    VTC because it is a duplicate. But it is also a rant. Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 13:16
  • Basically what Keshlam said. You can reply with something like: "Yes, I did get a chance to talk to the users if the A process can be done Systematically, although I suppose x would be a better term for this." -- Without bolding it of course, you can point out the error and also suggest another alternative without coming off rude.
    – Jonast92
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 14:16

4 Answers 4


Does everyone know what they mean when they use this term? If so, then do not waste another second of energy on it. I suspect there are far more important issues you can find to expend your energy on. On a scale of 1-10 in importance, this is a -5. Treat it accordingly.

If you really desperately feel the need to fix the usage, then model the language you want. Don't do it in a condescending way. Don't emphasize the word you use. (And automate is probably the correct choice.) Don't make it an obvious correction. Just quietly start using another term. Over time they may start to use your term.


The simple answer is that you can't 'fix' established jargon unless you're in a position to set policy, and maybe not then. All you can do is set an example in your own usage and hope folks pick up on it.


It seems to me that this may be a symptom of a bigger problem - your colleagues are not listening to you and seem to think that the consultants are the only people whose opinion is important.

Whether this can be changed or not probably depends upon your own status within your team. If you're the manager, you certainly have some ability to change the terms that your team uses. I would personally do this by discussing, in a private inhouse-only team meeting, why the current usage is incorrect and leads to confusion, and what terms should be used instead. If you're the most junior member of your team, you're very unlikely to make any headway by trying to correct your team's behavior and you will probably be seen as a know-it-all.

Without knowing your role, your safest approach is probably to use your own words - "automatically" or something similar - when describing the process yourself. If the consultants respond positively, your colleagues might notice.

The bigger question is why your opinion isn't respected within your team and organization, and as this is the root of the problem, it deserves more thought.


"systemic" means "system-wide". There is no correlation between "systemic" and "automation" and "automated". For example, when you describe corruption in a government as systemic, you mean that the corruption in question permeates all government agencies - no correlation with automation in this example. If the corruption is not organized, then it it is not systematic but more like random.

I take it that the consultant was brought in to mastermind the automation of a process. At this point, the lack of efficiency affects every step of the process and is therefore systemic i.e. process wide. The process cannot be fully implemented unless the process is systematically inventoried i.e. every single step of the process methodically inventoried and analyzed. The process of automatic may involve a systemic response: re-organization and re-alignment of the steps with some steps eliminated and others merged.

"systemic", "systematically" an "automation" are words that mean three different things with no correlation between each other. So both you and the consultant are using these words wrong.

  • To be clear I stated that I THINK they might have meant "systematically" but that I still feel that is an inappropriate word. Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 12:55
  • 4
    This answer addresses the meaning of the words in question, and doesn't even attempt to answer the actual question of "How do I fix this problem?"
    – David K
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 13:16
  • @DavidK "How do I fix this problem?" The OP was asking how to fix this problem with his wrong information. I addressed the OP's question by educating him that both he and the consultant are wrongly using the words they are fighting over. I have no further obligation toward him. Or you. Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 18:17

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .