Management speak – don’t you just hate it? Emphatically yes, judging by readers’ responses to writer Lucy Kellaway’s campaign against office jargon . Here, we list 50 of the best worst examples. 1. “When I worked for Verizon, I found the phrase going forward to be more sinister than annoying. When used by my boss – sorry, “team leader” – it was understood to mean that the topic of conversation was at an end and not be discussed again.”
Nima Nassefat, Vancouver, Canada 2. “My employers (top half of FTSE 100) recently informed staff that we are no longer allowed to use the phrase brain storm because it might have negative connotations associated with fits. We must now take idea showers. I think that says it all really.”
Anonymous, England 3. At my old company (a US multinational), anyone involved with a particular product was encouraged to be a product evangelist. And software users these days, so we hear, want to be platform atheists so that their computers will run programs from any manufacturer.”
Philip Lattimore, Thailand 4. “Incentivise is the one that does it for me.”
Karl Thomas, Perth, Scotland 5. “My favourite which I hear from the managers at the bank I work for is let’s touch base about that offline. I think it means have a private chat but I am still not sure.”
Gemma, Wolverhampton, England 6. “Have you ever heard the term loop back which means go back to an associate and deal with them?”
Scott Reed, Lakeland, Florida, US 7-8. “We used to collect the jargon used in a list and award the person with the most at the end of the year. The winner was a client manager with the classic you can’t turn a tanker around with a speed boat change. What? Second was we need a holistic, cradle-to-grave approach, whatever that is.”
Turner, Manchester 9. “Until recently I had to suffer working for a manager who used phrases such as the idiotic I’ve got you in my radar in her speech, letters and e-mails. Once, when I mentioned problems with the phone system, she screamed ‘NO! You don’t have problems, you have challenges’. At which point I almost lost the will to live.”
Stephen Gradwick, Liverpool 10. “You can add challenge to the list. Problems are no longer considered problems, they have morphed into challenges.”
Irene MacIntyre, Courtenay, B 11. “Business speak even supersedes itself and does so with silliness, the shorthand for quick win is now low hanging fruit.”
Paul, Formby, UK 12. “And looking under the bonnet.”
Eve Russell, Edinburgh 13-14. “The business-speak that I abhor is pre-prepare and forward planning. Is there any other kind of preparedness or planning?”
Edward Creswick, Exeter 15-16. “The one that really gets me is pre-plan – there is no such thing. Either you plan or you don’t. The new one which has got my goat is conversate, widely used to describe a conversation. I just wish people could learn to ‘think outside the box’ although when they put us in cubes what do they expect?”
Malcolm, Houston 17. “I work in one of those humble call centres for a bank. Apparently, what we’re doing at the moment is sprinkling our magic along the way. It’s a call centre, not Hogwarts.”
Caroline Garlick, Ayrshire 18. “A pet hate is the utterly pointless expression in this space. So instead of the perfectly adequate ‘how can I help?’ it’s ‘how can I help in this space?’ Or the classic I heard on Friday, ‘How can we help our customers in this space going forward?’ I think I may have caught this expression at source, as I’ve yet to hear it said outside my own working environment. So I’m on a personal crusade to stamp it out before it starts infecting other City institutions. Wish me luck in this space.”
Colin, London 19. “The one phrase that inspires a rage in me is from the get-go.”
Andy, Herts 20. “‘Going forward’ is only half the phrase that gets up my nose – all politicians seem to use the phrase go forward together. ‘We must… we shall… let us now… go forward together’. It gives me a terrible mental image of the whole country linking arms and goose-stepping in unison, with the politicians out in front doing a straight-armed salute. Is it just me?”
Frances Smith, Toronto, Canada 21. “I am a financial journalist and am on a mission to remove words and phrases such as 360-degree thinking from existence.”
Richard, London 22. “The latest that’s stuck in my head is we are still optimistic things will feed through the sales and delivery pipeline (ie: we actually haven’t sold anything to anyone yet but maybe we will one day).”
Alexander, Southampton 23. “I worked in PR for many years and often heard the most ludicrous phrases uttered by CEOs and marketing managers. One of the best was, we’d better not let the grass grow too long on this one. To this day it still echoes in my ears and I giggle to myself whenever I think about it. I can’t help but think insecure business people use such phrases to cover up their inability for proper articulation.”
Leon Reilly, Ealing, London 24. “Need to get all my ducks in a row now – before the five-year-olds wake up.”
Mark Dixon, Bridgend 25. “Australians have started to use auspice as a verb. Instead of saying, ‘under the auspices of…’, some people now say things like, it was auspiced by…“
Martin Pooley, Marrickville, Australia 26. “My favourite: we’ve got our fingers down the throat of the organisation of that nodule. Translation = Er, no, WE sorted out the problems to cover your backside.”
Theo de Bray, Kettering, UK 27. “The health service in Wales is filled with managers who use this type of language as a substitute for original thought. At meetings we play health-speak bingo; counting the key words lightens the tedium of meetings – including, most recently, my door is open on this issue. What does that mean?”
Edwin Pottle, Llandudno 28-29. “The business phrase I find most irritating is close of play, which is only slightly worse than actioning something.”
Ellie, London 30. “Here in the US we have the cringe-worthy and also in addition. Then there’s the ever-eloquent ‘where are we at?’ So far, I haven’t noticed the UK’s at the end of the day prefacing much over here; thank heavens for small mercies.”
Eithne B, Chicago, US 31. “The expression that drives me nuts is 110%, usually said to express passion/commitment/support by people who are not very good at maths. This has created something of a cliche-inflation, where people are now saying 120%, 200%, or if you are really REALLY committed, 500%. I remember once the then-chancellor Gordon Brown saying he was 101% behind Tony Blair, to which people reacted ‘What? Only 101?'”
Ricardo Molina, London, UK 32. “My least favourite business-speak term is not enough bandwidth. When an employee used this term to refuse an additional assignment, I realised I was completely ‘out of the loop’.”
April, Berkeley, US 33. “I once had a boss who said, ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it, so you have to step up to the plate and face the music.’ It was in that moment I knew I had to resign before somebody got badly hurt by a pencil.”
Tim, Durban 34. “Capture your colleagues – make sure everyone attends that risk management workshop (compulsory common sense training for idiots).”
Anglowelsh, UK 35-37. “We too used to have daily paradigm shifts, now we have stakeholders who must come to the party or be left out, or whatever.”
Barry Hicks, Cape Town, RSA 38. “I have taken to playing buzzword bingo when in meetings. It certainly makes it more entertaining when I am feeding it back (or should that be cascading) at work.”
Ian Everett, Bolton 39. “In my work environment it’s all cascading at the moment. What they really mean is to communicate or disseminate information, usually downwards. What they don’t seem to appreciate is that it sounds like we’re being wee’d on. Which we usually are.”
LMD, London 40. “At a large media company where I once worked, the head of human resources – itself a weaselly neologism for personnel – told us that she would be cascading down new information to staff. What she meant was she was going to send them a memo. It was one of the reasons I resigned – that, and the fact that the chief exec persisted on referring to the company as a really cool train set.”
Andrew, London 41. “Working for an American corporation, this year’s favourite word seems to be granularity, meaning detail. As in ‘down to that level of granularity’.”
Chris Daniel, Anaco, Venezuela 42. “On the wall of our office we have a large signed certificate, signed by all the senior management team, in which they solemnly promise to leverage their talents, display and inspire ‘unyielding integrity’, and lots of other pretentious buzz-phrases like that. Clueless, the lot of them.”
Chris K, Cheltenham UK 43. “After a reduction in workforce, my university department sent this notice out to confused campus customers: ‘Thank you for your note. We are assessing and mitigating immediate impacts, and developing a high-level overview to help frame the conversation with our customers and key stakeholders. We intend to start that process within the week. In the meantime, please continue to raise specific concerns or questions about projects with my office via the Transition Support Center…”
Charles R, Seattle, Washington, US 44. “I was told I’d be living the values from now on by my employers at a conference the other week. Here’s some modern language for them – meh. A shame as I strongly believe in much of what my employers aim to do. I refuse to adopt the voluntary sectors’ client title of ‘service user’. How is someone who won’t so much as open the door to me using my service? Another case of using four syllables where one would do.”
Upscaled Blue-Sky thinker, Cardiff 45. “Business talk 2.0 is maddening, meaningless, patronising and I despise it.”
Doug, London 46. “Lately I’ve come across the strategic staircase. What on earth is this? I’ll tell you; it’s office speak for a bit of a plan for the future. It’s not moving on but moving up. How strategic can a staircase really be? A lot I suppose, if you want to get to the top without climbing over all your colleagues.”
Peter Walters, Cheadle Hulme, UK 47. “When a stock market is down why must we be told it is in negative territory?”
Phil Linehan, Mexico City, Mexico 48. “The particular phrase I love to hate is drill down, which handily can be used either as an adverb/verb combo or as a compound noun, ie: ‘the next level drill-down’, sometimes even in the same sentence – a nice bit of multi-tasking.”
B, London 49. “Thanks for the impactful article; I especially appreciated the level of granularity. A high altitude view often misses the siloed thinking typical of most businesses. Absent any scheme for incentivitising clear speech, however, I’m afraid we’re stuck with biz-speak.”
Timothy Denton, New York
50. “It wouldn’t do the pinstripers any harm to crack a smile and say what they really felt once in a while instead of trotting out such clinical platitudes. Of course a group of them may need to workshop it first: Wouldn’t want to wrongside the demographic.”
Trick Cyclist, Tripoli, Libya
Thanks for my morning giggle. Thankfully, I work in a very small office and don't get exposed to such babble. However, my husband works for a very large US bank, and I've heard him mention some of these terms lately. Funny/interesting that "corporate-speak" is the same everywhere. I guess we truly are a "global economy". <grin>
rekha -- you have absolutely made my day. I have sent that link to a select few friends from my past life. The article reminded me of a day I was very nearly kicked out of a management meeting. As one of the more pompous managers began his usual long-winded dissertation with, "to my mental thinking", I interrupted him with, "as opposed to what?", thus sending the several others of the management staff into uncontrollable laughter. And that my friends is why I am so very happy to no longer be in Corporate America.....
You go girl, I said laughing my a-- off. Good for you!!
My daughter gave me this card for birthday. It made me laugh and hope it does you
Oh, what a good laugh.
#33 made my day!
That was hilarious! Thank you for sharing it.
Please don't thank me. It was so bloody ridiculous I just had to share it.
I loved it! Thanks for sharing! That's certainly the way it is in the offices nowadays. Too bad they just can't speak plain English, eh? They are trying to impress people & usually they are really saying nothing :(
Thanks for the laugh. I needed it today. Gail
Buffalo Dust baffles brains, huh? Cathy
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