Friday, February 12, 2016

What are the most annoying business buzzwords?

A recent poll of executives finds "synergy," "solution" and "think outside the box" among the most overused phrases in the workplace.

What are the most annoying business buzzwords?


Let’s start Monday with some business buzzwords:

Synergy. Think outside the box. Customer centric. On the same page.

All are words we hear 20 times a day at work. You’ll be happy to know that they’re among the most annoying or overused phrases as mentioned by 150 senior executives, too, in a recent poll by the temporary staffing service Accountemps.

Perhaps it’s the mindless repetition of them that’s so irritating. But let’s not discount the idiocy of some jargon. After all, any company that’s not customer centric can’t be in business for very long.

Which buzzword/phrase do you find most annoying?
Reach out
It is what it is
Game changer
Circle back
Cutting edge

These phrases are so loathed that Accountemps put them into its buzzword hall of fame along with the one that irks me the most: “solution.”

Technology companies are some of the prime offenders, proudly stating in their press releases that they sell solutions, prompting me to wonder, “What’s the problem?” Car dealers don’t sell solutions. Neither do dress shops. When my toaster dies, I buy another toaster, not a bread-browning solution.

The financial-services sector is big on peddling solutions, too. After the massive government rescues of banks and insurers, executives would do well to avoid using that word when they next testify before the House Financial Services Committee.

Why must companies cloud what they do, even when they make trust accounting systems or sell variable annuities. Trust me. I don’t bore that easily. But those who call their product or service a “solution” drop a few pegs on my trust meter.

Every company has a boilerplate description of what it is in business to do. Maybe it’s so bland and full of jargon because it’s been lawyered to death. Or maybe it’s deliberately vague to hide the fact that its niche product really can’t be applied to a broader customer base.

When I interview managers, I ask them to tell me what their companies do as if they were explaining it to their 7-year-old son or daughter. Saying “we provide solutions” doesn’t fly with the Transformers or Bratz set.

If anything, clear communication is more important in a bad economy than a good one. The survivors left in leaner workplaces have little patience to hear how they must “interface” with other levels of their organizations.

As much as business has cut back over the last year, one thing none of us would miss from meetings and memos are phrases such as “circle back,” “cutting edge” and “value add.”

Inquirer Columnist
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About this blog
Mike Armstrong blogs about Philadelphia corporations and business-related topics. Contact him at 215-854-2980. Reach Mike at

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