Stick A Fork In Business Buzzwords: 15 Common Phrases To Kill

The business world is ripe with raconteurs, rhetoricians and grandiloquent speakers – which is to say that many businesspeople use unwieldy elaborations of common English words and phrases in an effort to make a point – or simply out of habit without considering the meaning (or lack thereof) of a particular phrase.

Recently, in the LinkedCincinnati Group on LinkedIn, I posed the question:

“If you could kill one piece of corporate buzz-speak (like the phrase ‘move the needle’), what would you eliminate?” 

After over 100 comments in just one week, below are a few of my favorites from the discussion:

1. Think outside the box

First, can you define what the box is, so I can think outside of it? Yeah, I didn’t think so. 

2. There’s no “I” in Team

But there is an “m” and an “e”… There’s also an “I” in quit. 

3. Reach out

This sounds like it involves touching in the workplace. Your HR person will not be amused. 

4. At the end of the day

Lazy and meaningless at any time of the day. Unless, of course, it IS literally the end of the day. 

5. Let’s take that off-line

Translation: “I don’t want to address that and I hope you’ll forget to bring it up again.” 

6. We want to partner up with you

To take advantage of what a person or company has built/grown/acquired – for free. 

7. I’d like to pick your brain

See #6. 

8. Drink the kool-aid

Sounds way better than asking employees to die for you

9. This one’s in your wheelhouse

I don’t want to have anything to do with this project. You can have it. 

10. Take one for the Team

You’re on your own here. We’re officially throwing you under the bus.

11. Kick the can down the road

Because nothing says we’re serious business people like comparing work activities to a child’s game. 

12. Game changer

Yeah, right. Before that it was “world class” and before that it was “state of the art”. 

13. It is what it is

“I am your supreme Leader. And I don’t give a shit what you think.”   

14. Get in bed with

Just say NO to using this in regards to customers, vendors, etc. Trust me. They’re not that into you.  

15. Open the kimono

Some things are better left unseen. Keep that kimono zipped up and find another way to talk about transparency!

Question: What business buzzword or corporate jargon would you like to eliminate? Share it in the Comments section by clicking here!

Unbridled Talent LLC is a consulting and advisory firm providing services to clients in the areas of leadership development, executive communication skills and talent strategy. Jennifer McClure offers keynotes, workshops and training that inspire and teach business leaders to be more effective in their careers and as leaders of their organization’s most valuable resource – people. Contact us to schedule an event or to discuss our strategic consulting and advisory services.

President & Chief Talent Strategist

Jennifer McClure is a Keynote Speaker, Talent Strategies Expert and Executive Coach who works with clients and companies in the areas of leadership development, communication and talent strategy. Jennifer McClure offers keynotes, workshops and training that inspire and empower business leaders to be more effective in their careers and as leaders of their organization’s most valuable resource – people.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

34 thoughts on “Stick A Fork In Business Buzzwords: 15 Common Phrases To Kill

  1. These are fantastic. Would like to add, “Send me the deck,” “bifurcate,” “low-hanging fruit,” “see if there’s a there, there,”(what does this mean??) and “deep dive.”

  2. Loved this article!

    There are a few that drive me crazy..

    “That being said”
    adding “etcetera, etcetera” to the end of a sentence
    “put your big girl/big boy panties on”

  3. Most of these made me cringe…which must mean those folks were on the right track! I do hope that “Big Data” joins the list one day, as data is data. What does big data mean – it’s printed in larger font?

  4. Hilarious! I’m so glad I don’t have to put up with this kind of nonsense any more!! I remember people in the office printing out “buzzword bingo” cards to take into meetings – made me giggle. I was going to say I’m glad “run it up the flagpole” has been dropped – but evidently it hasn’t, according to another commenter.

  5. “I’m not sure we/I have the bandwidth for that…”

    Most annoying when NOT referring to a technology related issue…

  6. They’re still saying all that? I’ve got a 10-year old Dilbert book in my bathroom that lists all of these.

  7. “That’s above my paygrade” , “I’ll Trump you on that one” Best Practice, and Leverage…uggh

  8. Hilarious list. “Absolutely.”

    There are also the eternal “zombies” that keep coming back. “Too big to fail” used to be “Failure is not an option” which used to be “Failsafe” which used to be “…failure to communicate”.

    In the jes’ sayin’ department, when I saw the invitation for comments, I immediately thought of item #7. (smiley face)

  9. “Rockstar” as an adjective. For example, “company xyz is seeking a rockstar IT professional.” If you’re not referring to a musician then leave it out of the convo. Most hated term in business, ever.

  10. Boots on the ground.
    (no matter how important or difficult, nothing in business is equal to war)
    War room.
    Touch base with you.
    Low hanging fruit.
    Tribal knowledge.
    Any phrase beginning with “So”, in response to a question.

  11. My husband knows how much I hate buzzwords….when I sent him the link, he wrote the following to me. It is almost poetry–LOL
    “You are so thoughtful to reach out and send this to me. At the end of the day, you’re the one I could count on to think outside the box and come up with ideas that are truly game changers. I know that others are always trying to pick your brain and that you are often the one to take one for the team. However, you are the only one that I know that truly understands there is no “I” in team, so I, we, everyone wants to partner with you. Perhaps this weekend we can take this conversation off-line, brainstorm ideas, and just kick the can down the road a bit. This issue we need to solve is right in your wheelhouse, and while we both wish the timing was different, it is what it is. I don’t think that either one of us is willing to drink the kool-aid that the others are espousing, we’ve both been very transparent and been willing to open the kimono with one another. Like you, I’m not willing to get in bed with the other side. Strategically joining forces in focused collaboration will become zero-sum for the other party and net-new for us. We’re going to put a lot of points on the board and I’m sure we’ll come out on top.”

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