25 Most Hated Business Terms
"At the end of the day at work you want to have achieved passionate synergy as a team player that's consistent with corporate culture, and take it to the next level through an idea shower for a win-win game changer."
Hopefully, that's a sentence that has never been spoken in your office. But, since it's chock-full of some of the most hated phrases used in the business world, it's a distinct possibility. AOL Jobs received so many responses in creating a list of the Most Hated Business Terms that it could have listed 100, but decided to keep it to relatively modest 25.
Here's a real-life example from Australian entrepreneur Paul Breen, who heard this at a management presentation from the CEO of a $400 million company:
"We need to do some out of the box thinking from the get-go with sufficient granularity in the drill-down phase to ensure our value-added strategy is consistent with our core values and beliefs."
"Nobody in the room questioned what he had just said or what he meant," Breen said. "Most just nodded their heads in agreement. I nearly burst out laughing. It was just so ridiculous. This company had, without knowing it, invented their internal language. I think they believed it helped their culture -- it didn't. It robbed the company of its creativity and created a bunch of management drones that cared less about their customers and more about fitting in with their peers."
Here are 25 terms that fixate on the language instead of the message, and don't do much to get a point across:
1. "At the end of the day" Public relations executive Kevin Dinino said he always wondered, "As opposed to what, the beginning?" Does a sentence or point have more "oomph" if you say "at the end of the day?" Ex-jocks on ESPN say it throughout the day, Dinino says. Many more of these may come from the sports world.
2. "Synergy" or "synergies" are the worst business phrases ever to Kristen Carney of Austin, Texas, and co-founder of ThankThankNotes. "It's completely unfair of me, but when I hear someone say "synergies," it immediately discredits everything else they've said. After that point, all I can hear when that person speaks are phrases like 'Let's extend our collaborative synergies by evolving our value-add enterprise platform.'"
3. "I need this to be turn-key," as submitted by Greg Jenkins, a partner at Bravo Productions in Long Beach, Calif.. "Of course, it needs to be exceptional," Jenkins said. "Who would expect 'junk?' And when you ask a person how to describe their idea of turn-key, they can't tell you specifics."
That seems to be a common thread among these business phrases -- they're vague cliches that people use to avoid having to come up with specific details.
4. "Win-Win," as in "This is a real win-win solution." Michael Buckingham, owner of Holy Cow Creative, wrote that he uses it, but still hates it "mostly because it was overused, but maybe more so because most people don't mean it. Most people mean 'This is really good for me and I hope you think it's good for you.' Why can't we just talk like normal people; is there something wrong with 'I think this is good for both of us?'"
5. "Consistent with corporate culture." It's a phrase that Carrie Rocha hates. "If we have to regulate culture by telling people what they can and can't do to maintain consistency with the corporate culture, then maybe the culture isn't a reflection of the people working there anymore," Rocha wrote in an e-mail to AOL Jobs.
6. "Need to touch base with senior management," another phrase submitted by Jenkins of Bravo Productions. "Why not have senior management in the room when the materials are first presented?" Jenkins asks. "Would this not be a time-saving solution? Senior management should understand that concept."
7. "Ping," as in "I'll 'ping' Bill to see if he has the files." David Skinner, who owns his own company but worked for many large corporations, says, "It's used in exchange for 'email' or 'call' and most often by someone with no understanding of ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol). Did you know PING is actually an acronym? Packet Internet or Inter-Network Groper."
8. "Can I be honest with you?" Submitted by Bruce M. Colwin, president of Legal Minds Media, who asks, "Otherwise, are they usually dishonest with me?"
9. "Idea showers." Can anything be more inappropriate in a workplace?
10. "Putting out fires" is often about managers that seem to be running around because planning didnt occur, says Liz Cosline, a life ownership coach.
11. "Take it to the next level." Crystal Brown-Tatum, a public relations consultant, wrote: "I cringe when I hear this phrase around the office or by consultants and coaches promising to take one to the next level! What is the current level and how does one quantify the 'next' level? What if you are comfortable at the level you are on, and doesn't this assume you are not at the highest level?"
12. "Think out of the box," as submitted by Josh Kotlar, founder of MyOfficeHelper.com, a Web design and marketing firm in New York. "I simply do not agree with the idea behind it," Kotlar wrote. "Sometimes, being creative entails an improvement of something that has already been used and succeeded. I do not think that one needs to always do things that are out of the ordinary in order to have a successful campaign or project. I prefer the term 'think creatively.'"
As public relations consultant Jen Olewinski put it, "What box? There is a box? Who decides what is inside or outside the box? It makes no sense and is so overused in the creative and PR fields, and probably in every industry as well."
13. "Passion." As someone who is in the entrepreunerial business world, Robin Barr, president and product inventor at ColdlSoresBegone.com, says he hears again and again the use of the word "passion." "To succeed, you must feel passionate about what you do," or "The passion I feel for selling garden sprinklers gets me through the rough spots."
"Don't get me wrong -- like any word used in a new way, its always interesting for a short while," Barr wrote. "Then people get lazy and use it repeatedly rather than communicating with original thought. In my mind, it effects their credibility."
14. "Going forward," which Sally Treadwell of Boone, N.C., describes as "often used as a whitewashing weasel phrase." As in "Going forward, our company's policies will be changed to better reflect our changing customer dynamics." Treadwell said she took that to mean: "The past is past and we don't want to talk about it, because you might realize that we have some liability. So I'm going to dazzle you with the future. The future! Look! Aren't you excited to be part of it?"
16. "Bandwidth," as in "I just don't have the bandwith to deal with this right now," because in the time it takes to say it, the person took up more "bandwith" than just saying "I'm sorry, I'm swamped," as submitted by Janet Schultz, CEO of Organic Janet.
17. "Reach out," as in "I'm just reaching out to you" or "Can you reach out to so and so?" Jill Mikols Etesse, creative director at Smarty Shortz in Washington, D.C., says she has banned the phrase from her company's vocabulary. "I want to pull my hair out every time I hear it! Everyone we know says it; it is soo overused in every industry," she writes.
18. "Piggy back," as in "Yeah, so to piggy back off of what Jason just said..." Submitted by Kasey Woods, director of publicity and marketing at Digiwaxx Media, who says it sounds juvenile and forced.
19. "Team player." Vivian Scott, author of 'Conflict Resolution at Work for Dummies,' wrote: "What in the world does that mean? It's a terrible term that lets people in the workplace speak ill of each other without having to provide any evidence. And, because it's so vague, anyone being accused of 'not' being a team player hasn't a clue what it is he's supposed to do to correct the problem."
21. "Game changer," which Todd Brabender of Spread The News PR, Inc., found to be full of hyperbole from a client who brought a marketer onto a product launch campaign and insisted on incessantly using "game changing" or "game changer." His example: "It will be a real game changer for us is if we can convince people that we are best of breed and state of the art -- that will be game changing!"
22. "Out of pocket," as in, "I'll be out of pocket all next week so let's circle back about this project in two weeks." Dana Marlowe, president of Accessibility Partners, said the phrase for being unavailable is overdone and ridiculous.
23. "Enterprise risk management." It's used often at insurance and other financial services, and means nothing at all but is used to mean things as varied as "shopping for an insurance policy," "managing an investment portfolio to achieve stable returns," "improving plant safety," or "acquiring a competitor," said Eli Lehrer of the Heartland Institute.
24. "Actionable item." Anything that needs to be done at work is an "actionable item," so why use silly jargon to emphasize the obvious, wonders Rease Kirchner, a travel adviser in Buenos Aires, Argentina, who heard this buzzword too often as a marketing analyst in St. Louis, Mo.
25. "Negative growth." Carol Heiberger, a consultant and entrepreneur in Philadelphia who has written a dictionary defining business terms in plain English, has found the offensive phrase in a letter to shareholders from a CEO. What it really means is that revenues are down. Maybe that CEO, and others, could use Heiberger's dictionary.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.