How to Banish Corporate Buzzwords for the Sake of Your Career

Accounting Humor: Workplace Buzzwords

When faced with an overabundance of corporate buzzwords, do you feel like running for cover? Does corporate-speak remind you of communicating in code, or are you deaf to the idea that you — yes, you — could fall prey to a vocabulary containing overused, outdated business jargon?

Say it’s not so, because using shortcut clichés like we’re about to list can be detrimental to your job search, your career, your management style and your office culture.

Remember Weird Al Yankovic’s parody music videos? He came out with “Mission Statement,” sung in the style of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" by Crosby, Stills & Nash. Then he described it as “a song about all the ridiculous double-speak and meaningless buzzwords that I’ve been hearing in office environments my entire life.”

Maybe we can learn a lesson about lingo from Weird Al that will help our career.

What’s the most tiresome buzzword?

Accountemps surveyed human resources managers to find out the most annoying or overused word or phrase in the workplace. These are the 20 most popular expressions from the study:

  • Out of pocket
  • Deep dive
  • Forward-thinking
  • Dynamic
  • Let me get back to you
  • Pick your brain
  • Employee engagement
  • LOL
  • It’s not my job
  • It’s above my pay grade
  • When am I going to get a raise?
  • I am overwhelmed
  • Crunch time
  • Win-win
  • Value-added
  • Think outside the box
  • Leverage
  • At the end of the day
  • Circle back
  • Synergy

Do you have more “low-hanging fruit” to add to the list? Here’s an idea: Share this post on social media with your own buzzwords.  

We’re not going to leave you with just a list of banned words. After all, a phrase is really only cringe-worthy when it’s used time after time, ad nauseum, to the wrong audience. In an effort to help you deliver a clear and concise message, we’ll share a different list — five tips to quell the corporate jargon:

1. ‘Circle back’ with your point

Let your audience know up front the topic you’re addressing and why it’s important to them. Speak conversationally, and work to keep from peppering your language with needless words from the jargon pit.

“Clarity is still king when communicating in the workplace,” says Bill Driscoll, district president for Accountemps, adding that we should favor clear, straightforward language.

2. Show ‘dynamic’ interest

If you’re genuinely enthusiastic about a subject, people are likely to take note and want to hear more. If you become overly reliant on buzzy words and fuzzy shorthand, you run the risk of being misunderstood, not to mention sleep-inducing.    

3. ‘Deep dive’ into communication  

Verbal communication is a two-way street, so you’ll build better rapport with people if you listen attentively. If you’re hearing so much verbiage that you aren’t sure what the point is, ask for clarification or specifics. When it’s your turn to talk, don’t dumb it down but describe with concrete examples.

4. ‘Leverage’ workplace training

You can choose from an array of training options for business communications, from educational seminars to online resources. If you work with customers or give presentations to outsiders, this training can help remove communication barriers and clear up all those specialized terms, abstractions, euphemisms and acronyms you use with your teams.

You might find this useful: 5 Tips for Presentations That Inform and Persuade.

5. Make the most of ‘synergy’

If buzzwords are widespread in your office, infuse some fun and friendly competition by creating a “buzzword jar.” Whenever someone is caught being buzzwordy, he or she contributes a quarter to the jar. The proceeds can go toward a team-building event or other worthy cause.

Let’s see. How many buzzwords have we used in this post? Will a roll of quarters take care of it?

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