Stop Saying These 15 Business Buzzwords (Please)
August 11, 2016

Stop Saying These 15 Business Buzzwords (Please)

by Brian de Haaff

I wish we could just “peel back the onion” … but unfortunately business buzzwords are here to stay. The buzzword is a life raft for a disillusioned and disengaged worker. It is an easy escape route from a tough conversation that might actually require deep thought and carefully selected words.

And every decade brings forth a new lexicon of buzzwords to interpret. The 1960s gave us the “paradigm shift” and the “hard sell.” The ’70s and ’80s brought “low-hanging fruit” and the “bottom line.” And in the ’90s we learned to “disrupt” and “drill down” until we “get a seat at the table.” When it come to buzzy business words, my personal (least) favorite is “the ask.”

It overcomplicates and obfuscates the simple act of requesting what you need — which is the issue with most buzzwords.

Researchers believe we adopt buzzwords because of our basic need to be accepted. But this business Morse code forces others to work harder than necessary to comprehend the true meaning behind our words.

To that end, I asked the team at Aha! to share the workplace lingo that made them blanche in the past. Here are some buzzwords that we wish would disappear:

“Do you have the bandwidth to handle that?” The subtext is that if you do not have the time for additional work, you do not have the talent either.

Big data
“Big data” sure sounds impressive. But let’s be honest: Nobody knows what it is or how to use it.

Circle back
Why not just say that the idea or comment is not relevant to the current conversation?

Deep dive

Let’s do the hard work that we should have been doing all along.

Instead of choosing this rather aggressive buzzword, just say “we are going to complete this task by this date.”

Heavy lifting
“Heavy lifting” generally means that one person is doing all of the work — and only getting some of the credit.

Ladder up
This has to be the worst and most literal reference to mapping how your work will help you climb the corporate ladder.

This is simply a more polite way of asking who has the power to actually make something happen.

If enough people are talking about what we are doing, then it must mean it is working.

This buzzword tries to make the act of making money seem more modern — and fails.

Move the needle
It’s supposed to motivate you to do more, but it only offers the illusion of progress.

Pivot too many times in your business, and you will complete a full circle — right back where you started and failed the first time.

Real time
Stop talking about work or projects in “real time.” Just do it “now.”

Skill swap
“Hey, can I steal your ideas?”

Take offline
An abrupt — and obvious — attempt to regain control of a conversation.

The more we rely on buzzwords, the farther we get from transparency. And without transparency in the workplace, there aren’t enough buzzwords in the world to save us.

To succeed at anything we must communicate clearly. Rather than hide behind a string of buzzy phrases, successful people ask plainly for what they want and need — and explain why it matters. These are the people who ultimately get ahead.

What are the buzzwords that bug you the most? Share in the comments below.

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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