Office manager talking

If you've ever worked in an office environment, you'll know that some workplace annoyances are as commonplace as the office coffee machine.

Whether it's the water cooler gossip group or that one guy who always leaves his dirty dishes lying around, certain recurring stereotypes rear their head time after time after time.

One such stereotype that's virtually universal is the legendary language of office lingo – a bizarre verbiage used seemingly only within the confines of the office walls.

 

Our 5 Most Irritating Office Buzzwords

From “blue sky thinking” and “reinventing the wheel” to “raising the bar” and “moving the needle”, office linguistics have become a parody of themselves over time.

With that being said, let’s not waste any more column inches. It’s time to grab the low-hanging fruit and open the kimono with a brief intro to some of the most common (and most annoying) office buzzwords known to man.

 

“Ideas shower”

Example: “That’s great. Maybe we should have an ideas shower to expand on this.”

Translation: Brainstorm.

The term “ideas shower” came to prominence in the mid-to-late 2000s after somebody decided that “brain storming” might be offensive to people with epilepsy.

Despite the eggshell treading, a 2005 survey - carried out by the Epilepsy Society - found that “93 per cent of people with epilepsy did not find the term derogatory or offensive in any way”, rendering that caution rather pointless.

Nevertheless, the term is still used in offices to this day, with execs the world over lathering up in its inspiring waters daily.

 

“Learnings”

Example: “What are the key learnings here, Chad?”

Translation: Lessons.

Where to begin?

Okay, we should probably start by highlighting that “learnings” isn’t actually a legitimate dictionary term. Yet here we are…

We’re guessing that, somewhere along the way, “lessons” became a dirty word (unbeknownst to the rest of the world) and a suitable corporate replacement was required.

The chosen substitute was “learnings” – presumably the result of an ideas shower.

 

“Synergise”

Example: “We need to synergise and think outside the box going forward.”

Translation: Work together.

Using dynamic words can be a great way to engage people in a meeting or presentation; however, this is one business term that has gone the way of Tony Christie’s “Amarillo”.

A hackneyed old trope, “synergise” has become an overused crutch for execs looking to incite unity, boost motivation and inspire.

Ironically, this uninspired office cliché is about as inspiring as a demotion and more likely to inspire a migraine.

 

“Disambiguate”

Example: “We need to disambiguate the figures so I can run the numbers by HO.”

Translation: Clarify.

If there was ever a term laced with the power to send teeth into an instinctive state of grinding, this is it.

An ironically confusing word in its own right, this is one term that should be left alone to marinate in its own ambiguity.

 

“Paradigm shift”

Example: “Okay, people. This company is in need of a paradigm shift.”

Translation: Dramatic change.

A true corporate classic, this term is often used to highlight a significant change within a company, industry, or business strategy.

Instead, it often leaves innocent bystanders shell-shocked into a state of dumbfounded numbness.

In the event of such puzzlement, kindly request that your host disambiguate their statement.

 

Honourable Mentions

There are plenty of other infuriating office buzzwords where those came from, such as…

 

“Take this conversation off-line”

Example: “I agree, but perhaps we should take this conversation off-line.”

Translation: Chat in private.

 

“Get our ducks in a row”

Example: “We really need to get all our decks in a row if we want to hit these targets.”

Translation: Get organised.

 

“Cascading relevant information”

Example: “If we could start cascading relevant information, that would be great.”

Translation: Discuss with colleagues.

 

“Guesstimate”

Example: “If I had to guesstimate, Miles, my bonus this year is well into six figures.”

Translation: Guess. Or estimate.

 

“Bandwidth”

Example: “I don't care what marketing says, we don't have the bandwidth for another big project right now.”

Translation: Resources.

 

“Close of play”

Example: “I want that Johnson file on my desk by close of play, Susan.”

Translation: The end of the day.

 

“Upskill”

Example: “We need to upskill the team to increase our bottom line.”

Translation: Train.

 

“Restructuring”

Example: “Head Office have ordered this restructuring, Steve - my hands are tied!”

Translation: Clear out your desk.

 

Buzzword Bingo

If you work in an office, there’s a good chance you’ve already heard some of the above terms this week. You may even be guilty of regurgitating one or two yourself!

As a rule of thumb, the more corporate the environment, the more examples you can expect to find, worn like a verbal badge of honour, proudly polished off in every meeting and presentation. As such, deciphering office buzzwords has become an accepted part of working life for many.

So much so, in fact, that “Buzzword Bingo” has been a popular game for decades, providing office workers the world over with a humorous way to pass the time, avoid boredom and subdue their grating fury over hollow words and surplus syllables.

Why not play a round of Buzzword Bingo during your next ideas shower? Just be sure to synergise with colleagues, get your ducks in a row, and cascade the relevant information ahead of time.

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