For the past six months, the wordsmiths at the International Association of Business Communicators have been moaning about corporate buzzwords at our LinkedIn group.
caution: jargon

Jargon categories

We yawn at “think outside the box,” “paradigm shift” and other over-used phrases. We express outrage over nouns forced to become verbs.

We are grossed out by “open the kimono” and dehumanized by “human capital.”

We know that most employees think “transformation” means “layoffs.”

We understand that anyone new to the organization, whose first language is not English or who skipped ivy league business school does not understand many management buzz words. But they are afraid to ask, lest they look stupid.

The buzz word dialect may work when the executive tribe is communicating with each other. But when executives, or the communication crafters who represent them, are trying to connect with anyone outside the tribe, these buzz words should be replaced with language that everyone understands.

Speak their language; don’t expect them to learn yours.

I’m not saying that none of this jargon should ever be used. But please, approach with extreme caution, like a yellow light that’s about to turn red on a dark and stormy night.

The list

Here are some of the words that upset business writers in this 15,000-member organization.

as you are aware
at the end of the day
best in breed
best in class
blue ocean strategy
blue sky thinking
business critical
calibration meeting
circle back
circle the wagons
cross-functional socialization
customer centricity
deep dive
drink the kool aid
emotional intelligence
face time
game changer
getting a leg up
going forward
herding cats
human capital
in this space
it’s all good
leadership imperative
level the playing field
low-hanging fruit
move forward
my ask
my two cents
new media
next generation
not rocket science
on the same page
open the kimono
outside the box
paradigm shift
pick my brain
playing on the same team
pushing the envelope
quick wins
run it up the flagpole
shovel ready
singing from the same song sheet
social media ROI
state of the art
strategic decision
sweet spot
take it offline
teachable moment
think laterally
to be honest with you
value added
walk the talk
walk the walk

Is there hope that business leaders will start thinking instead of defaulting to jargon?

Yes, concludes discussion participant Helen Slater, of Strata Communications in New Zealand: “I am confident that, at the end of the day, we will gain some quick wins through onboarding then socialising the concept of eliminating jargon. Going forward, we will all be on the same page – indeed singing from the same song sheet – and be thinking out of the box when it comes to the language we utilise in the C-suite. Initially, it will be similar to herding cats, and the process will identify the square pegs in the round holes, but we will achieve some upside and a paradigm shift as we reach out and break the silos through the use of intelligible language.”

Any to add?

Thanks for the photo, Marc Falardeau.

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82 business terms to approach with extreme caution
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5 thoughts on “82 business terms to approach with extreme caution

  • August 15, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    My teeth started grinding at ‘circle the wagons’. Particular hates are ‘low hanging fruit,’ ‘run it up the flagpole’, and ‘ginger group’ and everyone’s favourite misquote, ‘walk the talk’. ‘Walk the walk’ and ‘talk the walk’ are NOT correct. If you’re going to use jargon, at least get it right, please.

  • August 16, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    What’s scary is that I’ve been hearing many of these terms for decades. Then they wonder why we can’t raise their engagement scores. Sigh.

  • September 25, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    At Last!!! Someone has pointed out all of these foolish ‘lines’ in one
    simple piece that every executive or presenter should keep tucked into the front of their glasses!!!!! They do not sound good. They are not clever. They are not ‘current’. They are over used phrases that people are very tired of hearing. Thank you Barb!

  • September 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Thanks, Karen. Thank the IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) member who put up with this jargon every day and live to tell the tale.

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