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14 Business Jargon Phrases People Love To Hate

Updated on
May 13, 2019
14 Business Jargon Phrases People Love To Hate

When humans aggregate into groups, we tend to develop new lexicons specific to our group context. Wizards complain about “muggles,” high schoolers aspire to “squad goals”—and occasionally a mid-level manager stares fervently into your eyes and tells you it’s time to “shift the paradigm.”

In recent years business jargon has somehow evolved into a tangled mess of annoying, pretentious, tired clichés that are more effective at obscuring than clarifying meaning.

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If you haven’t guessed already, this post is for all you noble crusaders against jargon (a.k.a. “haters”) who have had enough of “moving the needle,” “idea showers,” and “putting your ducks in row.” Whether you’re a jargon-hater or you consider it a necessary (if annoying) part of office life, take a moment during your “bio break” to enjoy our list of the worst workspeak phrases we love to hate.


1 Low-Hanging Fruit

Are you skipping blithely through an orchard, plucking apples for your grandmother’s pie? No? We didn’t think so. This ridiculous phrase is all about going for the quick fix and the easy win in order to get immediate results. So go ahead and put all the hard stuff on the “back burner”—there’s zero chance that could come back to bite you, right?

2 Leverage

Mind-numbingly overused, and a favorite of managers attempting to “climb the ladder.”

“Leveraging our goodwill with millennials will help us increase sales.”

Please, quit deluding yourself. Incessantly using “leverage” as a verb does not increase our estimation of your intelligence.

3 Open the Kimono

One of the stranger artifacts of office lingo, “open the kimono” means to reveal information or secrets, such as the inner workings of a company or the details of a project. If being low-key racist and sexist doesn’t turn you off, this phrase is also exceptionally creepy.

4 Giving 110%

A hyperbolic phrase synonymous with “going above and beyond.” Translation: “We’d like you to work fourteen-hour days for the next two weeks because of an arbitrary decision the CEO made.” Unless you’re a professional athlete or Little League coach, this phrase should not be in your vocabulary.

5 Learnings

One of the most heinous buzzwords to crawl out of the office petri dish.

“On this next slide I’ll share my main learnings from the conference.”

Please, don’t ever share your “learnings” with us, just tell us what you learned. #MakeLearningAVerbAgain

6 Out of Pocket

A term with dubious etymology meaning “I won’t be available.”

“I’ll be out of pocket this week. You can reach out to my assistant with any urgent requests.”

Okay, enough with the abysmal out-of-office messages. For those of you who would like to make a positive impression, here are ten out of office messages you’ll want to copy.

7 Drink the Kool-Aid

Meaning to unquestioningly buy into something, such as a company’s “mission.” This common idiom originated from the mass suicide-massacre of 1978 when over 900 members of the Jonestown commune were forced to drink poisoned Flavor Aid by their crazed leader. So, maybe you should stop casually referencing horrific tragedies during your board meetings.

8 Bio Break

An annoying and unnecessary euphemism for taking a bathroom break during a meeting. Seriously, all you need to do is announce a ten-minute break. You can spare us the details.

9 Blue Sky Thinking

Thinking “outside the box” wasn’t enough. Your new imperative is to think in a way that is so exceptionally creative that you are unbound by the constraints of convention, common sense, or even reality. It’s all blue sky up there, baby!

10 Tiger Team

A group of specialists assembled to tackle a particular problem.

“The Tiger Team is working to get the pension problem under control.”

Stop kidding yourself. Unless you’re an elite government hacker (the origin of the term) or you’re wearing tights and shouting “Thundercats, Hooo!” you are not in a Tiger Team.

11 Idea Shower or Thought Shower

A brainstorm, but apparently with no brains required. Please keep your “thought showers” to yourself, thank you very much.

12 Moving the Goalposts

Changing an expectation or parameter of an ongoing project, making the project more difficult to complete.

“If our client keeps moving the goalposts, we won’t be able to deliver their report on time!”

This is also a great way to cheat at games in your backyard, when you’re a child.

“Mom! Benny moved the goalposts again! It’s not fair!”

13 Drill Down

To investigate something in detail. Synonymous with the equally insufferable “let’s unpack that” and “peeling the onion.”

14 Gain Traction

An infuriatingly overused buzzword meaning “to gain popularity.”

“Our new SeeFood app has failed to gain traction, we’ve only had twelve downloads.”

Who knows, maybe you would gain more traction if you didn’t use such terrible business jargon all the time.

It’s your turn to weigh in! Circle back with the business jargon you dislike the most.


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