What’s the worst workplace buzzword?

Many others have tackled this topic — here, here, here and here — but I wanted to try and get a list down as well. I have a friend out in Seattle and her and her husband do this on the regular; they basically will speak at home in only corporate jargon to amuse themselves (only for short periods of time). Here’s a bunch that I’ve encountered in the different places I’ve worked — I felt like a random Friday afternoon was a good time to attempt to list a bunch.

Out Of Pocket: This basically means you won’t be available. It needs to be re-phrased.

Chat: A chat is something pleasant you have with your grandmother. A chat in a business sense means you’re absolutely and totally f’ed.

On My Radar: Won’t think about this again for four-six months.

Run The Numbers: And then, in all likelihood, we won’t understand what we ran.

Rubber Meets Road: Old-school cliche, so this bothers me less — although in reality, what happens when the rubber meets the road? The car goes forward?

Take This Offline: This traditionally means “we’re going to get this settled by people at a higher pay grade,” IMHO.

Drill Down: I’ve always felt like this expression should be confined to people (a) in the oil/gas industry or (b) in the pornographic industry. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense.

At The End Of The Day: This is cool to say if you mean it literally, as in, “This is due by EOD.” It’s bad to say if you mean it metaphorically, like, “… as things evolve…” That’s just p-footing around a decision, typically.

Long Play: I have no idea what the f*ck this means, to this day. I get it conceptually, but the American business climate is completely structured around quarters and immediate results. Who wants long plays?

Touch Points: When people say this, I literally want to scream and then immediately burst into tears irrationally. Worst part is, I can’t understand why.

Few Things On My Plate: Don’t bother me for a while, but I might really be writing a novel on MS Word and not working.

Inbox Zero: Something that people with no ability to manage their day-to-day communications talk about as if it’s equivalent to nirvana.

Deep Dive: Again, in the travel/tourism/resorts industry, acceptable. In others? Not as much.

Value-Add: This should actually mean a lot in terms of storytelling (what value does your brand provide?), but it’s typically used as a BS line about people or products.

Hop On A Call: The oddest thing is, people are more receptive to doing this than to actually speaking to someone face-to-face.

Win-Win: Typically speaking, this can be translated as “the rich get richer,” although it varies by organization, of course.

Going Forward: This is like “chat” above. It should mean something simple, like “Here’s the plan.” Whenever you hear “going forward,” though, it’s almost always about something you just messed up.

Acronyms: Any of ’em. All of ’em.

Buy-In: I need people who outrank me to care about this so that I can justify it to myself and others.

Lot Of Moving Parts: This is something that’s too complicated for me to do, has started to bore me, and I’m just doing it because it was an edict. We’ll all dump out on the process in a bit; no worries.

Boil The Ocean: I’ve heard this maybe six times in my career to date. Every time, I’m all like, What does this even mean? Who is attempting to boil the ocean? Oh wait, humanity is.

Scalable: Observation that’s probably wrong — do you ever notice that most of the people that use this term are people in business without a business background? It’s almost like the easiest term to use to sound “in the know.”

Corporate Values: This is an awkward phrasing because, by definition, things (which a corporation is) don’t have values. People do.

Robust: This basically means nothing; anyone describing what they’re looking for as “something robust” doesn’t know what they are looking for, IMHO.

Core Competency: I don’t mind this one if it’s used right — to describe a thing someone is truly good at. It’s often used as a banal catch-all.

Get A Seat At The Table: Typically said by departments that don’t touch revenue enough to be factored into big decisions.

Circle Back Around: “Let’s all chase our tails for a bit.”

Ted Bauer


  1. “Out of pocket,” confused me for awhile. When it once meant, “Paying a business expense on my own to later be reimbursed,” that even made sense. So when people started saying they were out of pocket, I was lost. Now it just makes me imagine people carrying middle managers around in their pockets, and the managers escaping.

    “Eat our own dogfood,” was big at an old place of employment…even after I told the president of the company, “It makes what we produce sound like little more than scraps from a slaughterhouse floor.” (I was in the next round of layoffs after that.)

    And anytime a male coworker says he needs to attack his low hanging fruit, well…that one writes itself…

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