Buzzwords / Use With Caution

This story appears in the
Association Focus 2024 Issue 1

When communicating with colleagues in the business world, it may feel like you have to learn a secondary language to understand the corporate speak that everyone uses on a daily basis.

Corporate speak is a collection of buzzwords and phrases with double meanings used to communicate smoothly and enhance credibility. Buzzwords act as shortcuts to communicate longer, more complex ideas to save time or effort.

However, the trouble comes in when those buzzwords are used badly or incorrectly. The supposed shortcut to clearer communication becomes an even more confusing misunderstanding. This leads to individuals disliking having to use corporate speak but continuing to use it to sound more professional.

A recent survey was conducted by Preply Business (a global language learning marketplace for businesses and teams) of more than 1,500 American office workers about the corporate speak they use at their jobs.

And here they are, the top 10 most annoying business buzzwords (or catchphrases) :

  1. New normal.
  2. Culture (as in “company culture”).
  3. Circle back.
  4. Boots on the ground.
  5. Give 110%.
  6. Low-hanging fruit.
  7. Win-win.
  8. Move the needle (haha, see Sophie’s message at the end of page 6).
  9. Growth hacking.
  10. Think outside the box.

Why do we talk in corporate speak if not everyone likes or understands it? Psychology Today, after also delving into corporate jargon, suggests that these buzzwords and phrases do help simplify a complex concept, but they just get overused.

Chances are, however, those business buzzwords — annoying or not — are most likely here to stay because they help many of us feel like we’re really part of a group or team that has embraced a shared language. But like anything, they have a time and place. Using them with intention and purpose can clearly communicate your ideas and take your business language to another level.

For those of you that need some instruction on real corporate speak, or just a self‑deprecating laugh (and you know who you are), click the link below.