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11 examples of annoying work jargon (and what to say instead)

Everybody in the office uses it. Yet, if you asked them, everybody would say they hated it.

No, we're not talking about that coffee machine in the breakout area.

We're talking about office jargon, that distinct form of ‘office speak’ that gets on all of our nerves.

The experts at online CV builder Resume.io understand the importance of clear and effective communication in the workplace. That's why they created this following guide to the most annoying examples of office jargon - and how we can banish them from our vocabulary forever.

1# Low-hanging fruit

A relatively new entry into the workplace jargon lexicon, low-hanging fruit means 'easy pickings.' It's used in a positive or negative sense. For example, "let's focus on the low-hanging fruit, because we can get these tasks done quickly." Alternately, "that's low-hanging fruit; we should aim for something greater."


Either way, it's one of those overly complicated phrases we don't need to use - ever. Not when we can say quick and easy instead.

2# Have synergy

An example of corporate jargon at its very (very) worst! This is one of those buzzwords that's only real purpose is to make the speaker sound ‘smart.’ If someone is constantly talking about 'having synergy,' there's a good chance they don't know what synergy means.

Synergy describes a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements (such as resources or efforts). In other words - and in simpler words - having synergy is when things or people work well together.

3# Push the envelope

"Come on team, let's push the envelope on this one."

Cue confused looks between you and the rest of your colleagues.

What envelope? Push it where? Do we need to buy some stamps first? WTF is this guy even talking about?

Why didn't they just say go the extra mile? Then again, that's still a little bit too 'jargony.'

How about, "come on, team, let's extend the limits on this one and go beyond what's expected." (?)

Much better.

4# Make hay

A truncated version of the old saying, "make hay while the sun shines," this slice of corporate jargon is one of the less annoying cliches on the list. After all, it makes perfect sense. People should make the most of every opportunity, so why can't we just say that instead?

5# Circle back

"You want to 'circle back' on this one? You mean let's walk around in a big circle, come back to where we started, and begin this conversation all over again?"

OK. Maybe we're being too literal here. But you get the point.

When you dig into the meaning of corporate jargon like 'circling back,' you realise just how ridiculous it can sound, especially when there are loads of straight-talking alternatives, including "Let's revisit this later."

No confusion there and zero room for absurd interpretations. This is what clear and concise business communication is all about.

6# Boil the ocean

It would take an extremely long time to boil all the water in all the oceans around the world. That's why many business professionals have adopted the phrase 'boil the ocean' to describe wasting time or making something harder than it should be.

Using convoluted terms like this to describe corporate inefficiency is, of course, the definition of irony. Any mentions of boiling the ocean during a pitch or huddle will probably generate loads of unnecessary questions about why you're talking about boiling the oceans during a pitch or huddle.

Keep it simple. Please, just keep it simple.

7# Singing from the same hymn sheet

You don't need to be fluent in corporate jargon to understand what ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ means., It's one of those 'buzzy' workplace phrases that everyone can instantly decode.

Still, is it really necessary? Of course not. Which is one of the biggest reasons not to use it, especially if you're a manager or supervisor. Research shows that leaders who repeat workplace cliches are viewed as less competent and less confident than their straight-talking counterparts.

So swap 'singing from the same hymn sheet' for 'sharing the same understanding.'

8# Trim the fat

Keep all talk of 'trimming the fat' in the kitchen and out of the boardroom. If you want to talk about increasing operational efficiency and maximising resources, practice what you're preaching by using simple, economical language, such as 'strip back' or 'cut it down.'

And why would anyone want to trim the fat of their bacon anyway? It's the best part!

9# Blue sky thinking

The new version of thinking outside the box, blue sky thinking is the go-to buzz-phrase for managers and white-collar professionals who think talking smart is more important than working smart.

In the clearest terms possible, blue sky thinking is a call for creativity. Ironically, using office jargon is a sign that yours is in short supply...

Jennifer Chatman, a Berkeley management professor, explains, "Jargon masks real meaning. People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others."

Just ask your team to come up with some new ideas instead. True creativity always finds a way...

10# Bandwidth

Lacking the 'bandwidth' is another way of saying that a task or idea is outside a person's competency range. There's nothing wrong with using a little jargon in this sense, especially when giving feedback to a team member who isn't quite up to the task at hand.

But there are easier (and less confusing) ways to talk about giving people the extra support, time, or resources they need to develop their skill set.

11# Move the needle

When translated into plain, everyday English, "move the needle" means to have a large enough effect that people notice a real change in the business.

Every ambitious executive wants to “move the needle.” Show you mean business by ditching the jargon to speak plainly, using bold and confident statements, such as "I want to make a real change."

Communication is about delivering information clearly and effectively. That's precisely what business jargon DOES NOT DO. And that's why it needs to go.

The Common Workplace Jargon You Should “Kick Into Touch” (And What To Say Instead) - infographic

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