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Coaxing 'outside the box' back in

The worst corporate jargon offenders
Amy Chulik, CareerBuilder Writer

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It's mission-critical that we circle back on this very important matter of corporate jargon in the workplace. Let's focus on the low-hanging fruit with a small group first and then loop everyone in. Being proactive about our learnings will really incentivize the group to focus on the most critical action items and value-add for maximum impact. Let's start high level, drill down from there and circle back after lunch to figure out next steps.

Wait, what? Annoying, right? If you're anything like me, corporate jargon makes your skin crawl -- but in today's workplace, it's sometimes hard to get away from it. Most of us have been guilty of at least one of the business "buzzwords" below.

A recent CareerBuilder survey asked employees what corporate jargon they would like to eliminate. "Outside the box" is the most popular -- or unpopular -- word depending on your view. The next-worst offenders are:


  • Outside the box (31 percent)

  • Low-hanging fruit (24 percent)

  • Synergy (23 percent)

  • Loop me in (22 percent)

  • Best of breed (19 percent)

  • Incentivize (19 percent)

  • Mission-critical (19 percent)

  • Bring to the table (18 percent)

  • Value-add (17 percent)

  • Elevator pitch (16 percent)

  • Actionable items (15 percent)

  • Proactive (15 percent)

  • Circle back (13 percent)

  • Bandwidth (13 percent)

  • High level (10 percent)

  • Learnings (9 percent)

  • Next steps (6 percent)


Navigating workplace issues can be tricky enough without throwing flowery, clichéd or just plain made-up words and phrases in one another's faces. It only takes one brave person to turn "outside the box" into "creatively" or "let's circle back" to "I'll call you," and we can begin to peel back the layers of complexity and really talk honestly to one another.

Grasping for an original thought or non-business-speak term that describes what we want to achieve can be difficult, but it also makes it easier for others -- inside or outside our workplaces -- to understand us. It brings a fresh perspective to the same old "strategy planning session." And it can make tasks easier, not just for employees who have been with the company for some time and have deciphered the internal lingo, but for new employees, for whom clarity and simplicity is essential while getting used to a new role. Let's stop wasting one another's time with meaningless buzzwords and start saying what we really mean.

Corporate jargon: Breaking down the buzzwords

Here are a few examples of corporate jargon, each followed by an example of a simplified version. Dig around in your own emails -- you likely have some examples to work with, too. Sometimes, simpler words actually give us room to add context around a situation.

Jargon: "It's mission-critical that we do this."
Alternative: It's important that our company do this to reach our fourth-quarter sales goals."

Jargon: "Let's circle back in a couple of weeks."
Alternative: "Let's talk again on Dec. 18. I will send you a calendar invitation."

Jargon: "Be sure to loop me in."
Alternative: "Please include me in future conversations about this."

Jargon: "What does she bring to the table?"
Alternative: "What specific qualifications would she bring to the position that other candidates are lacking?"

Jargon: "The social media element of this project will be a compelling value-add for the client."
Alternative:
"By helping our client build relationships on sites like Twitter and Facebook, we can add more value to this project and help them meet their social media goals."

Jargon: "How do we incentivize our employees to be more productive?"
Alternative: "What can we do to make employees excited about coming to work again?"

Jargon: "Let's start with the low-hanging fruit."
Alternative: "What are the easiest goals for us to reach right now? Let's focus on those first."

Amy Chulik is a content strategist at CareerBuilder and writes for CareerBuilder's employer-focused blog, The Hiring Site, where she strives to bring a dose of clarity and humor to recruitment and workplace news, issues and trends. Follow her on Twitter at @cbforemployers.



Last Updated: 27/01/2012 - 11:31 AM


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