The office jargon we love to hate


Do office buzzwords make you die a tiny bit on the inside? If so, it turns out you’re not the only one. According to a Get Response poll, cliché business terms can be in equal parts “annoying and exhausting”. Let’s unpack this a bit further by taking a holistic overview in order to really drill down on our feelings.

Are your toes curling yet?

I thought that the crux of the survey may have been simple irritation at the Americanisms that have ambushed our office vocab. Silicon Valley’s slow stranglehold. But the respondents themselves were in fact based across the US. Who knows, maybe we’re the real culprits!

So which phrase topped the list of most hated office jargon? A drumroll please for… Synergy. 

Of the 1,000 employees polled, synergy was most commonly picked as the buzzword they hated to hear in any context. So, what exactly does it mean? It appears that synergy is just a swish term for cooperation and collaboration. It was followed hot on the heels by:

Personally, I feel that many of those top ten phrases are fairly innocuous. I mean, teamwork? What’s wrong with teamwork? However, I can feel the eye rolls at paradigm shift and even the overused empower.

So how do you explain the ubiquitousness of these phrases? I think it must be down to plain old exposure. The more you hear a new bit of jargon the more likely you are to employ it yourself. As time goes on the sayings become more and more hackneyed. 

An element of artifice around corporate buzzwords also seems to grate. In an article for The Atlantic, writer Olga Khazan puts forward: “Not quite a cliché, not quite a term of art, a buzzword is a profound-seeming phrase devised by someone important to make something sound better than it is.”

Even remote working has failed to provide any respite from the business jargon. If anything, our annoyance is exacerbated without the visual clues and inadvertent meetings at the coffee machine reminding you that your co-worker is, in fact, a fully rounded human being.

I’ll put a strong bet on my favourite category of poll responses, “the most passive aggressive email lines”, having been employed at a skyrocketing rate in the past 12 months:

So beautiful. So awful.

If anything these lines remind us of the shortcomings of written language. Think of the Twitterstorms caused by a poor turn of phrase. Perhaps that’s why we’ve become so reliant on emojis. It’s significantly easier to convey our feelings!

Whatever your thoughts on business jargon, you can’t deny that on the whole it’s universally understood and has become an effective form of communication. Is getting hung up on the natural evolution of language just a form of snobbery?

I think it’s time for a thought shower…

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