I’ve even sat in meetings where business people have used jargon to hide their own lack of knowledge when answering an employee’s question.
While sometimes a word or phrase might feel appropriate for a business situation, more often than not, there are clearer ways to explain yourself. These vague, meaningless phrases often baffle employees and clients.
I’ve sat down with the team at SuperStars and we’ve compiled an A to Z of office jargon that we’ve heard throughout our careers, what do you think?
Annual leave – surely booking a day off or holiday suffices?
Blue sky thinking – I get there are situations in business where you need to look at something with fresh eyes and no preconceptions, but let’s use ‘original’ or ‘creative’ thinking to describe these instances
Close of play – sometimes end of play, often COP, if we need something done by the end of the working day, let’s be specific. Do it before you go home!
Dot the i’s and cross the t’s – going forward we’re going to finalise the job paying attention to the details. Simple!
Expectations – exceed expectations, manage expectations….just tell me exactly what you will do.
Fit for purpose – ask yourself instead if the person is well suited or well equipped for the role?
Getting the ball rolling – meant to motivate a team to start work on a project immediately, this overused idiom generally has the opposite effect. Get to the point and use ‘let’s get started immediately’
Heads up – “I just wanted to give you a heads-up on …” is now the way to say “I just wanted to tell you about …” please use the latter!
Idea showers – I get the negative connotations with ‘brainstorms’ but if I emailed my team to organise an ‘idea shower’ they would all laugh at me!
Job ready – see above under ‘fit for purpose’
KPI – of course, we want to measure business to see if we’re doing well or not, but let’s just set some targets
Low hanging fruit – what’s fruit got to do with it? A tired and massively overused cliche meaning stuff that’s easy to do.
Move things forward – or do some work
No-brainer – no explanation required, it’s obvious right?!
Offline – as in to take something offline. I’m not sure this saying even has anything to do with the internet. I think if someone says this to you, it means they’ll talk to you later about it, or more likely, never!
Ping – as in ‘I’ll ping you’ or ‘ping it across’. A very American saying, us Brits should stay with ‘I’ll email you’ or ‘I’ll contact you’.
Quick win – the idea of immediate results is great, but in business you want to implement long term success. Think instead of short and long term results.
Reinventing the wheel – is the cliché of all clichés and possibly a little patronising to employees. Try to keep morale high by suggesting a ‘more productive’ use of time.
Singing from the same hymnsheet – this phrase is so outdated now. I prefer to say same wavelength or similar ideas.
Thinking outside the box – I cringe even writing this one. Inarguably the very worst, overused, most annoying business phrase of all time. How about think creatively, or try something different. These phrases have the same effect but cause less eye-rolling.
Value add – this term can even be confusing to people familiar with business as it’s very similar to the economic unit, value added. I tend to say bonus or free as it also sounds more appealing for consumers.
Win-win – this is lose-lose and also quite an informal term. Keep it formal with mutually beneficial, it means exactly the same thing but sounds a lot better.
X – Hooray at least there’s one letter of the alphabet that doesn’t lend itself to clichéd jargon!
Your take – this one flies below the radar a lot, but I’d still choose replace it with your thoughts or ideas.
Zzzz – and by this point, you’d be forgiven for switching off to all of this mind-numbing business jargon, so as business people let’s make a concerted effort to revert back to plain-speaking English.
James Taylor is founder and CEO of SuperStars (www.super-stars.org.uk) and the IOD’s Director of the Year. Follow him on twitter @jamestaylor_SS