Survey Reveals Most Annoying Terms, Phrases Used in The Workplace

Companies claiming to create "synergies" in an effort to develop a "value-added" "paradigm" that leads to new "solutions" may want to be strategic in another way: not going overboard with cliché phrases and industry jargon. According to a recent survey, terms such as these are among the most overused in the workplace.

The national poll includes responses from 150 senior executives including those from human resources, finance and marketing departments with the nation's 1,000 largest companies. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Accountemps, the world's first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals.

Executives were asked, "What is the most annoying or overused phrase or buzzword in the workplace today?" Their responses included:

  • "At the end of the day"
  • "Solution"
  • "Thinking outside the box"
  • "Synergy"
  • "Paradigm"
  • "Metrics"
  • "Take it offline"
  • "Redeployed people"
  • "On the runway"
  • "Win-win"
  • "Value-added"
  • "Get on the same page"
  • "Customer centric"
  • "Generation X"
  • "Accountability management"
  • "Core competency"
  • "Alignment"
  • "Incremental"

"Buzzwords and industry jargon are a form of shorthand used by people within a particular company or profession, but they can be confusing or even seem exclusionary to individuals outside of that field," said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps. "When these words are overused, they can lose their impact altogether."

Part of the motivation to use buzzwords can be attributed to a desire to demonstrate your expertise, but this can often backfire. Added Messmer, "Even though the terms you use may be clear to you, other people must understand them if you hope to communicate your point effectively. For instance, instead of saying a project was a 'win-win,' explain why it was successful."

As society and pop culture evolve, old catchphrases die out, while new jargon is born. Following are some examples of currently popular buzzwords and their meanings:

  • Watercooler games n. -- coworker discussions
  • Smell test n. -- determining the potential success of a product; formerly "run it up the flag pole"
  • Critical path n. -- determining the appropriate steps to take
  • Low-hanging fruit n. -- easy opportunities for new business
  • Bandwidth n. -- the amount of time and resources needed for a project
  • Download v. -- assess the facts of a particular situation
  • Brain dump n. -- providing all of the information; typically given when someone is handing over an initiative or preparing a successor

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