After Hours

10+ buzzwords that should be banned at the office

Does corporate jargon set your teeth on edge? See if the expressions you love to hate are on this list.

Does corporate jargon set your teeth on edge? See if the expressions you love to hate are on this list.


Once upon a time and about two jobs ago, one of my colleagues who was so officious that she carried around three clipboards to make sure that she was getting on everybody's nerves, constantly used the expression "going forward." She usually said it after you made a minor mistake that she deemed outrageous, like filling out a purchase order incorrectly or routing a file to the wrong person. At the end of a long chastising lecture, she would announce, "Going forward, you should blah blah, blah." For some reason, it grated. "Why can't she say 'in future?'" I used to grumble.

Such office jargon is pretty annoying, and it's an assault on the ears even to hear it. Some frustrated employees have taken to playing "Buzzword Bingo" during meetings, using cards with expressions like "outside the box" or "on the same page." Fortunately, such jargon goes out of style pretty quickly. I haven't heard "going forward" in years. On the flip side, old expressions are almost immediately replaced by new, even more irritating ones.

Fortunately for all cubicle rats, staffing firm Accountemps periodically surveys executives to find out what they deem the most annoying and overused office cliches. Here are this year's latest results and my own cynical translations and usages.

Note: This article is based on an entry in CBS MoneyWatch's The Consumer Reporter blog.

1: Leverage. Deployment of an insufficient amount of something to do that which was previously done with much more. Example: After the layoffs, we can leverage our staff of three to cover the entire Eastern seaboard. 2: Reach out. Deliver the bad news. Example: Reach out to the customers with a letter announcing that their interest rate just doubled. 3: It is what it is. Get used to it. Example: Your administrative assistant doesn't know how to answer the phone. It is what it is. 4: Viral. So prevalent that you want to barf when you hear about it. Example: Twitter has gone viral. 5: Game changer. A catalyst that will transform a frog into a prince or vice versa. Example: Getting indicted for fraud was a game changer for Bernie Madoff. 6: Disconnect. A situation in which you wanted jelly, but someone gave you peanut butter. Example: There is a disconnect between what the consumer wants and what we intend to provide. 7: Value-add. A gain, usually financial. Example: She refuses to donate to charity unless she sees some value-add, say, eternal salvation. 8: Circle back. See you again and again and again whether or not you want to be seen. Example: I'm having cocktails with Mervin, but I will circle back around midnight to see if you've finished the Implebottom Report or The stalker abided by the court's restraining order but then circled back to hang out by my garbage can. 9: Socialize: Jam the idea down their throats. Example: We need to socialize to our patients our practice of closing the doctor's office every day for two hours at lunch. In other words, "Call 911."  10: Interface: Have relations with. Example: I interfaced with Charlie, and now I'm pregnant. 11: Cutting edge: So modern, it's to die for. Example: Sleeperama's cutting-edge mattress will take the country by storm.

I was going to try to leverage all of the above to produce an essay, but I was afraid that in the effort, I would want to take a cutting edge to my throat. Anyway, word to the wise: Now that these expressions have been officially identified as irritating jargon, you might want to give them up. Unless your boss is planning to circle back to reach out to interface and socialize to your value-add. What can I tell you? It is what it is.

Your turn

Annoying as those may be, there are plenty more. Share your favorite-hate buzzwords in the discussion below.


More from CBS MoneyWatch.com

102 comments
bernalillo
bernalillo

outside the box - 30 years ago it might have actually had some meager relevance, now it is the most "inside the box" thing anyone can say. I notice it is usually used by peopel who may never have had an insired workable thought in their lives. Moving forward - Makes me want to vomit. Something I would like the champions of this phrase to do when admiring the view at the rim of the grand canyon. Team Player - Frequently used to slur rebels who insist on changing light bulbs by them selves. If you cant actually find any legitimate complaint about someone this phrase may be your best bet for shaming them into submission. Not every organization needs to be populated entirely by people who work best in groups. For instance I rarely hear "Can't work alone" even though there are just as many such people in my experience. There's plenty more but I'm outta time.

aref.erfani
aref.erfani

PLEASE add to this list the pointless, good_for_evasion_and coomunication_of_vague_thoughts folksy Donald-Rumsfeld-style whatchamacallit gollygee whatnot whatnothaveyou whathaveyounot perversions of the language - Thank you!

moore-margaret
moore-margaret

The "devil's in the details" and we don't 'use' anything these days, we 'utilize' them.

alfred.nims
alfred.nims

My 2 big annoyances are "surreal" and 'at the end of the day'. Both are used way too much and I am tired of hearing them both.

feral
feral

How about "cunning plan" and "strategic buy"

jpr75_z
jpr75_z

When was "ecosystem" abducted by the business world? It is everywhere! Enough!

paul.everett
paul.everett

Leverage is my no 1 buzzword hate. One you missed is 'Heads-Up' - what the h3ck does this mean??? 'Thanks for the Heads-Up - lets run that up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes!!!!! Another one - Lets just Suck it and See......arrrggghhhhh Oh and.. Lets Draw a Line in the Sand and move on .....

nwgarner
nwgarner

Perspective. Let's talk offline. Ping me later.

vicki.simcoe
vicki.simcoe

Vet as a verb. Does it hunt? Artifacts instead of documents. Deck instead of power point presentation. Opine. Behavior Anchors. Socialize (the idea). Slipstream. Bench strength.

johnzappulla
johnzappulla

Does that mean you have been dishonest with me up until now?

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

I know it's not the office, strictly speaking, but since so many of us take so many flights for work ... Considering we have so many normal words like 'exit', or simply 'get off', turning the word Plane into a half-a-verb is either the height of stupidity, or of the marketing department over-extending its reach.

rt
rt

To implement the synergies of meaningful communication parameters?

SAStarling
SAStarling

1. "Just so you are aware...." (why else would you be telling me?) 2. "Knowledge Transfer" I want to SCREAM every time I hear "Knowledge Transfer."

john3347
john3347

And the biggest thing that makes me cringe, is the trend of "teenage texting" slang that works its way into "professional" speech and "professional" writing. Next to that comes the ridiculous use of three letter abbreviations and acronyms. Speak the words speaker! Write the words writer! You are in your third sentence later before your listener has figured out what your shortcut chatter means.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

Have fun at meetings! Make up BINGO cards with these buzzwords and get several friends to play. As you sit in a boring meeting, mark the buzzwords as the speakers drone on spewing drivel, and when you get five in a row, shout "BINGO!" and the rest of the players treat the winner to lunch. Just imagine it . . . "and now, as we begin to leverage our value-added partners" "BINGO!" At least it keeps everyone awake. ;-)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

"Let's conference on that." Why can't you just say "Let's talk about it."?

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

Should be shot in the street and shown for what it is. The same damn technology with a new face and name we have been using for years!

Jack.Brandt
Jack.Brandt

"Ping." As in "I will ping him and see if he can reach out and socialize that game changer to his team."

seang
seang

Caveat! Tell this word isn't comparable to nails on a chalkboard!

moore-margaret
moore-margaret

I forgot about this one - can't use 'function' any more; have to use 'functionality'.

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

I've gotta say I don't really hear Surreal too much around the office. Kinda wish I did in a way ... :)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

.. you wouldn't know a cunning plan if it walked up beside you, slapped you across the face and sung "I'm a cunning plan. boo boo bee doo."

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The expression is, to my knowledge, derived from non-golf sporting events such as baseball, softball, or basketball where balls often go flying off in different directions. "Heads up!" means watch out, ball coming your way. Catch it, step up to the line, and shoot for three! ;)

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

I don't know about the others, but Artifacts and Documents are not the same thing. And why do I have to use a Microsoft trademark word when referring to a presentation? Les.

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

"look, those really are great ideas and we value your input and enthusiasm, [i]but to be honest with you[/i] ..." I think it is a case of lying with you, not at you ...

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I think its because most of those flight attendants have trouble with "disembark."

richard
richard

Can we get some TRACTION?

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

I use that one all the time. Les.

Raphael Angelos
Raphael Angelos

But how can you have a paradigm shift if you don't think outside the box.

richard
richard

who will DRIVE this Knowledge Transfer TO COMPLETION.

cyndi
cyndi

Agreed. I once received an email from a co-worker that was blasted out to over two hundred customer and the first line contained "U and 4". I received several complaints from customers in a variety of age groups. I don't have a problem if you are on an instant messenger talking to a co-worker and need to get information quickly, but internal use should not translate to external use. How important does your customer feel when you couldn't even take the time to properly type the entire word?

Schadenfreudian
Schadenfreudian

Oh, but there are so many more (despite the high-quality replies/examples) because there are so many bleating lamebrains trying to pass as "employees." "...bottom line is..." [which is why idiots like the ones who say this are siphoning off company profit with every breath taken] "...the fact of the matter is..." [oh, just 'cause you said it makes it a fact?] "...net-net..." [accountants must stand up, dweebily, and take responsibility for this one] "...run this up the flagpole..." [not in MY country you don't] But I have to agree that "going forward" is quite possibly the most parroted phrase among just about any profession that relies more on sizzle than steak (especially in the D.C. area). I do, however, enjoy observing the display of smug superiority whenever one of these crimes-against-humanity passing as English ruptures from pieholes of the sociopaths who use them; the more sociopathic, the more likely a person will use them.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The vocabulary for "disembark" and similar is no there yet so they join two more basic words to express the intended idea.. except it would be more like "plane done?"

santeewelding
santeewelding

A barque outfitted with outboard jet engines.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

-{sound of shotgun pump-action}- Next? ;)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It's mine that gives me problems. Sorry; reflex action.

santeewelding
santeewelding

That you both can go where I go with just the mention of a word. Helluva an image, Nick! Needs wood chips and rigging.

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

... it was possible for Cook to discover Nepture, Uranus and the Russian Space Station? Tricky bugger.

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