Featured Product
This Week in Quality Digest Live
Management Features
Gleb Tsipursky
Only a third of organizations have hybrid policies in place
Joe Judge
How you do anything is how you do everything
Stephanie Ojeda
How addressing customer concerns benefits the entire quality process
Shiela Mie Legaspi
Set SMART goals
Mike Figliuolo
Creating a guiding maxim helps your people think ahead, too

More Features

Management News
For companies using TLS 1.3 while performing required audits on incoming internet traffic
Accelerates service and drives manufacturing profitability
New video in the NIST ‘Heroes’ series
A tool to help detect sinister email
Developing tools to measure and improve trustworthiness
Manufacturers embrace quality management to improve operations, minimize risk
How well are women supported after landing technical positions?

More News

Matt Zajechowski

Management

Study Rates Most Annoying Corporate Jargon

Get your ducks in a row and circle back to the low-hanging fruit

Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2023 - 12:01

We spend about one-third of our waking hours at work. That’s often more time than we spend asleep or hanging out with our family and friends. It’s no wonder then that workplaces develop their own languages.

Workplace jargon can help streamline our jobs and bond us to our colleagues. But sometimes it just gets on our nerves. So which buzzwords can we expect to hear this year, and which do we hope to never hear again?

To find out, we surveyed 1,002 people and asked them about their perceptions of office buzzwords.

Graphical user interface, application  Description automatically generated

Key findings

Slightly more than one in four people report hearing corporate buzzwords multiple times a day.

“Vibe” was voted the most annoying word Gen Z brings to the office, and “circle back” is a phrase we all want to eliminate.

The corporate jargon people find most annoying in a job posting is “like a family.”

How do Americans feel about corporate jargon?

While not everyone loves corporate jargon, it seems to have found a home outside the office. In fact, a majority (58%) of Americans admit to using buzzwords in their private life at least sometimes. Whether it’s jargon or popular slang, buzzwords make their way into all parts of our lives.

“FYI” is the one term people say above all others, with a whopping 81 percent using it at home. Around two in three people use the expressions “at the end of the day” (65%), “win-win” (64%), and “touch base” (63%) when not at work.

Which buzzwords do people leave behind at the office? Only 11 percent of people use “on my radar” in their personal lives, and 10 percent say “ducks in a row.” A paltry 8 percent admit to using the expression “deep dive’’ on their own time.

While buzzwords can show up in all sorts of communication, they most often appear in an email (38%), in person (29%), and in instant messages (24%).

The most and least annoying corporate jargon

If you want to discuss something later, just say so directly—unless you want to get on your co-workers’ nerves. On our list of most annoying corporate jargon, “circle back” took the No. 1 spot, “Let’s table this” took fourth, and “Put a pin in it” took sixth. For a complete look, check out the Top 10 list of most annoying buzzwords.

1. Circle back
2. Work hard, play hard
3. Boots on the ground
4. Let’s table this
5. Synergy
6. Put a pin in it
7. Get ducks in a row
8. Low-hanging fruit
9. Reinvent the wheel
10. Throw it up and see what sticks

To see where your favorite phrases land, take a look below at our Top 10 least annoying buzzwords.

Fortunately, some corporate buzzwords don’t seem to bother us at all. “Sync”  came in as the least annoying workplace term. Terms that describe people working together also appear to be universally approved.

1. Sync
2. Pushback
3. Pipeline
4. Level set
5. Have in back pocket
6. Window of opportunity
7. Loop in
8. Align
9. Take offline
10. On the same page

Buzzwords you should keep out of job postings

If you’re tasked with writing a job posting at work, you may want to steer clear of jargon. Although 43 percent of Americans say it makes no difference in how they perceive the prospective employer, 55 percent view buzzwords within job postings negatively.

Only 2 percent say it makes the job appealing, and nobody says jargon makes them very eager to apply.

Employees might spend more time with co-workers than their own family, but they don’t want to be reminded of it in a job listing. The No. 1 corporate expression that people dislike in a job posting is “like a family” (38%).

As it turns out, people also dislike thinking about the stress of their potential new job, as “fast-paced environment” (37%), “hustle” (24%), and “work hard, play hard” (23%) also made the Top 10. Snappy job titles appear to do little to help: “rock star” (36%), “guru” (28%), and “ninja” (26%) made the Top 5 most annoying buzzwords.

Graphical user interface, application  Description automatically generated

The most annoying new buzzwords

Since the phrase “new normal” is typically associated with a crisis—and the recent pandemic in particular—it makes sense that people don’t want to hear about it anymore.

An overwhelming 42 percent of people surveyed chose the term “new normal” as the most annoying new buzzword of the year. Placing a distant second and third place are “lean in” (18%) and “hop on a call” (16%).

So what words do the youngest workers prefer? More than any other, Gen Z likes to say “vibe” in the workplace (and probably outside of it as well). If you have young people in your office, get ready to hear these other Top 5 words: “no cap,” “bet,” “lit,” and “basic.”

Just be careful. Even buzzword meanings change, and sometimes Gen Z buzzwords are used ironically. So if a Gen Z co-worker suggests that your office party is “going to be lit,” it might not be a good thing.

Older employees like to use metaphors in their work jargon (military, sports, and more). When working with boomers, you will no doubt hear their No. 1 office expression: “ducks in a row.”

If you’ve spent any time with people of that age, you’re already likely familiar with the other Top 5 boomer favorites, including “boots on the ground,” “reinvent the wheel,” “think outside the box,” and “wear many hats.”

Conclusion

As the youngest working generation comes aboard, we should expect to see “vibe” enter our office chats. As for retirement, we’re all ready to say goodbye to phrases like “circle back” and “new normal” this year.

If you want to polish your language skills and make sure you’re using the correct corporate terms in the office, tutors at Preply can help whether your goal is to get a promotion or just to understand the latest jargon.

Methodology

On Nov. 30, 2022, we surveyed 1,002 Americans across all 50 states working in an office or remote setting about their feelings on corporate jargon. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 76 years old, and were 49 percent female, 48 percent male, and 3 percent non-binary.

This article first appeared on the Preply blog.

Discuss

About The Author

Matt Zajechowski’s picture

Matt Zajechowski

Matt Zajechowski is a marketing specialist with 14 years of experience in digital marketing. Matt speaks English and German, and is a world traveler always in search of his next destination when he’s not working, writing, or spending time at home with his dog and cat.