If you’ve been in the business world long enough, you’ve heard catchy phrases like “thinking out of the box,” “low-hanging fruit,” and “bandwidth,” just to name a few. Often called buzzwords, corporate jargon, or business babble, it’s a form of corporate communication that is all too common in the workplace. Unfortunately, certain phrases are overused to the point that they make most office workers cringe. In a recent survey by online learning platform Preply, one in five respondents admitted to disliking corporate speak. Despite that, three-quarters say they have used business buzzwords to sound more professional, with men (76%) more likely to use them than women (66%).
The downside to corporate jargon
While they serve a purpose, there’s a downside to business buzzwords. According to research at Columbia Business school, corporate jargon can often be a barrier to clear communication. And if you’re not a native English speaker, they can be downright confusing. One in five people surveyed even see corporate jargon in a job description as a warning sign and have held off applying for a role because of it.
Top ten most disliked corporate jargon phrases
Are you wondering which phrases might be the most problematic? Here are the top ten most annoying corporate buzzwords according to Preply’s research:
- New normal
- Culture (e.g., “Company culture”)
- Circle back
- Boots on the ground
- Give 110%
- Low-hanging fruit
- Move the needle
- Growth hacking
- Think outside the box
In the survey findings, 43% of respondents considered the phrase “new normal” irritating—probably because of its association with the pandemic. The same percentage felt annoyed by the term “culture,” given that the term is being overused by employers trying to lure workers back to the office. “Boots on the ground” was also unpopular with 42% of those surveyed. Finally, 41% were put off when asked to “give 110%”— a request that seems unrealistic—especially with the current burnout epidemic.
Ways to steer clear of annoying buzzwords
While it does have its uses, if you’re concerned about the potential negative effects of corporate jargon on your organization, here are some ways to stop the madness:
- Don’t feel pressured to use certain words or phrases because others do.
- Make a list of the most commonly used buzzwords and post it near your computer as a reminder to avoid them.
- Consider alternative phrases that are more specific and descriptive.
- Focus on a storytelling approach to illustrate points and convey authenticity.
- Run your work by outside parties and non-native speakers to ensure it is clear and succinct.
Clearer language doesn’t just improve productivity and understanding. It builds trust. By eliminating corporate jargon from your vocabulary (at least to some extent), you’ll become a better communicator and make a more compelling case to your audience.
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