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When office jargon gets annoying

Jargon has become so ingrained in our day to day business lives that these phrases are incredibly hard to avoid. All of those words that cause eye-rolls in boardrooms around the world started in the 1900’s and have been growing and changing since then. You can blame the Mad Men of ‘60s advertising for making jargon so popular, but we all love a catchy phrase no matter what we say.

Jargon has had a place in Human Relations and Scientific studies for as long as we can remember.  It has played a part in defining industries and changes in the way office work has been viewed. It’s also annoyed us for years. Office jargon has a time and a place, but is it really necessary to use it as much as we do? As obsessively as we do? Maybe instead of telling your manager you will be “leveraging a best practise”, you can just start wearing your safety gear as you are already meant to.

We use office jargon to fit in with a work group or team. They make us part of the clique when we start a new job. Your boss feels you are ‘on-board’ when you use his favourite ones in conversations.

Here are a few we hear too often. And for fun, here are a few that we have heard that are just strange or creepy.

  • Drinking the kool-aid: Aside from this being a reference to the Jonestown Massacre of 1978, this term means to blindly follow and accept something. Such as the corporate ‘mission statement’. No one wants robots working for them so why would you ever use it?
  • Taking it to the next level: We would do just that but honestly, no one knows what you are talking about. It should mean to make something better. But without defining what that is, you can never ever expect employee to get there. How do you even measure it?
  • Body of work: A very high-brow way of summarising the total output of a company. Unless you are a famous Author or Rock band with years of successes, we feel ‘total production value’ or something similar works well enough.
  • Giving 110%: Please just stop. It is the equivalent of dividing an orange in quarters to share among 5 people. Scientifically impossible.
  • Take offline: To stop the line of conversation in a meeting and talk about it afterwards as it has nothing to do with everything else. Alternatively “talking about this further after the meeting” works just as well.
  • Boil the ocean: This means to waste time. I suppose boiling the ocean would be a waste of time. It would also take a long time to travel around the world by bike. But we don’t say that either. Nor should we.
  • S.W.A.T. Team: In real life this is a group of law enforcement who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe. In business it means a group of experts getting together to solve problems. One of these is not like the other. It also makes your group of tax experts sound like they are going to tear thought the office in riot gear looking for the last 7 years of accruals.
  • Tiger team: as above but a group of tech experts. Even at a stretch I have never thought of my IT department as a team of tigers.
  • Open the kimono: Meaning to reveal information. It is incredibly creepy imagery and no one likes it. Please stop.
  • Move the needle: A phrase often used by Venture Capitalists and business development. To move the needle is to generate a reaction – normally positive cash flow. Instead it starts sounding like a weird drug thing.
  • Low-hanging fruit: You would prefer to pick the low-hanging apples instead of climbing to the top of the tree for it. Same things but with business opportunities. The problem is that no one knows which tasks or opportunities you are actually talking about. Of as easy as it all sounds, if they are even worthwhile going after.
  • Lots of moving parts: Machines have lots of moving parts. Unless you are talking about something that has physical moving parts, maybe leave this one out of your day to day office chats.

So before you empower an employee, by drilling down into their core competency, to get buy-in on your desire for them to think outside the box, while you’re busy getting your ducks in a row, to synergise a robust business plan, let’s execute a hard stop.

Start replacing these phrases with regular words. This is your window of opportunity to make your next meeting less abominable.

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