“If you can’t express your idea without buzzwords, there may not be an idea there at all.”
The world of business can be a funny old place at times. As well as picking up biscuit-weight, full time workers will no doubt start to pick up on and even take on board one another’s habits, expressions and hobbies. It’s hard not to when you see the same people five days a week or more.
In the corporate world, the same is true of a particular style of communication; it’s know as corporate guff, office jargon or, if you’re fairly up to date, key buzzwords.
It took me a long time to adjust to this style of corporate language – I’m not one for using phrases that I don’t fully understand or that don’t seem necessary, especially in one-on-one conversations that would have otherwise been a fairly casual affair. My approach to writing (and speaking for that matter) has always been to ensure that my Grandma would have understood – although she would most likely have been more impressed had she not.
However, the introduction of a more relaxed and social approach to business now means that our communications have taken on a similar fashion – social media has challenged our personal boundaries within the work force, and even made some of our previous approaches look a little tired, stuffy and even insincere.
So…could these alienating corporate phrases be on the way out? Should we be “keeping it real” and communicating like we might be fellow human beings instead of pre-programmed, pretentious cyborgs?
14 of the Most Pre-Programmed Corporate Phrases
“I’ll action that now”
(Translation: I am, very formally, on it like a car bonnet)
Calm down, Action Man. You’re not a superhero. I understand that this has to be used in certain situations like in meetings, especially if you’re taking notes. However, is it really necessary in every day office life when surely a simple “Okay” or “I’ll do it now” will suffice?
“Let’s touch base”
(Translation: We need a catch up, but I wanted to make it to sound a little bit rude at the same time)
This one has cropped up so much recently, but purely because it now sounds a tad more unprofessional than it was originally intended. For those reasons, I think it’s on the way out of the office and onto the double-entendre scrap heap.
“Reach out to them”
(Translation: “Come on people now, smile on your brother…”)
Reaching out, or ‘outreach’ is quite simply a way of making contact with someone. The problem I have with this phrase is that it’s designed to make it sound like you’re doing some great, God-sent, missionary-style favour for someone to disguise the fact that you’re most likely pestering them. The first time I heard this phrase was when I was in my early twenties and was told I was going on an “outreach mission” for the council. I stood and handed out flyers all afternoon.
“Taking a holistic approach”
(Translation: Keep everything connected, but in a way that’s totally far out and rad)
You may come across this one in marketing or sales strategies and it basically means to keep everything connected or to tie all aspects together. Which is fine, but it’s also a word more commonly used in spiritual healing and still makes me frown every time I hear it. I used to work with a woman who would always go on about how her daughter studied ‘holistic therapy’ on horses. So that’s all I can think of when this word is used in a corporate environment: the MD, whispering to a horse. But that’s my problem, not yours…
“At the end of the day…”
(Translation: Can we stop talking about this now?)
A lot of you may have been pleased at the news of obnoxious talk-show host Jeremy Kyle being pepper sprayed in Magaluf recently. However, don’t say old J.K doesn’t do anything for society, as this phrase has died a quick death in the corporate world for fear of now sounding like a toothless, daytime no-mark. Let’s just summarise instead shall we?
“I’ve got that on my radar”
(Translation: Yes, I know about that, but I’d much rather do it later)
I have a to-do list. Maybe one day, I too will have my own radar.
“The low hanging fruit”
This one makes me cringe even more than “touch base”. I’m not entirely sure why, or if I even want to look into why. But it basically means “the quick win”.
“It’s going to take a lot of pre-/forward planning”
(Translation: To plan…before you plan?)
Unless you’re frantically trying to go back in time to fix a slip up, there’s no reason you should be post-planning, or backwards planning. So just good planning should do the trick.
(Translation: Communication Stations)
Why are we all touching each other all the time? In sales, touch points are another way to describe different channels or methods of connecting with a potential sales lead. Along with “touching base” I’m afraid this one seems a bit of a bizarre choice that sounds more personal than professional to me. Maybe that reflects a changing of the times…but anyway, I’d much rather call them communication stations – at least it rhymes.
“Our service is value-added”
(Translation: The service I’m going to provide will actually be good)
Value-added is great phrase used to explain why you charge more for your services than your competitors. I actually don’t mind this one – I frequently shop in the value-added section in Tescos.
Admittedly, there are a few others that I quite like: some for comic value, but some that I MAY be guilty of using myself…
“Let’s shift the paradigm”
(Translation: Change tack)
To change the way in which you think or approach a problem (or a challenge – because we don’t have problems in your workplace, do we?). Although I’m not a user of this phrase as it’s still quite annoying and still very pretentious, making a task sound like your going on some sort of Quantum Leap-style mission is much more exciting than going back to the drawing board.
“We were still working on it at the 11th hour”
(Translation: I’m so sorry you were last on my list)
Guilty as charged! They say that most of your best homework is done on the bus on the way to school and so ‘the 11th hour’ is a phrase I do like to use quite a lot when I’ve crammed as much as I can into a project with a small time-frame. It kind of puts the pressure on and makes it sound like I’ve been teamed up with Leonardo Dicaprio in a desperate fight to save the state of humanity before it’s too late.
“This is mission critical”
(Translation: I’m making this task sound like a life or death situation so that you have to put it ahead of everything else)
But hey, it works! Besides, it makes it sound like I’ve been teamed up with Tom Cruise in a desperate fight to save the state of… well, you get the idea.
“End/close of play”
This has to be one of my favourite corporate phrases and one I’m most definitely guilty of using – mainly because it paints a lovely picture of me and my colleagues all having a jolly old time doing things like hoolah-hooping, practicing cartwheels and trying to make loom bands all day. I just hope there’s enough cake and ice cream to go round at the end of play.