The Margin: It’s a win-win if you stop saying the 10 most annoying phrases at work


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As company culture adapts to the new normal and looks to get more boots on the ground with teams reaching for low-hanging fruit (while also thinking outside the box) in an attempt to move the needle and make returning to the office a win-win, workers would like to circle back with some feedback: 

Don’t use the phrases in the above run-on sentence ever again! 

Indeed, many of these corporate cliches are among the top 10 most annoying business buzzwords in a new survey from Preply Business, a global language learning marketplace for businesses and teams. It surveyed more than 1,500 American office workers about the corporate speak they use at their jobs. And one in five of those surveyed said that they dislike corporate buzzwords — and another one in five warned that seeing jargon in a job description has even been a red flag that put them off from applying for the role.

These are the top 10 most annoying business buzzwords of 2023, according to the survey: 

  1. New normal 

  2. Culture (as in “company culture”)

  3. Circle back 

  4. Boots on the ground 

  5. Give 110%

  6. Low-hanging fruit 

  7. Win-win

  8. Move the needle 

  9. Growth hacking 

  10. Think outside the box 

Do any of those sound familiar? You’re not alone. In fact, many of these terms — including “win-win,” “culture,” “think outside the box,” “circle back” and “new normal” — were also among the top 10 most frequently-used business buzzwords recorded by the Preply Business survey.

But “new normal” especially rubs many employees the wrong way as the most annoying business buzzword (drawing 43% of the vote), perhaps from being associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. The report also suggested that “culture” grates on those employees who perhaps feel like their company’s attitude isn’t so great, and “circle back” likely suffers from being overused.

Some other notable mentions: more than half of people (53%) said that they saw using the word “rockstar” in a job description as a warning sign, perhaps because it suggests a high-demand role requiring superhuman effort, the report noted. And candidates who can “wear many hats” also didn’t sit well in this survey, possibly suggesting that the open role is unclear, or that it’s part of a team that is too small to meet the demands of the job.

But what about the pieces of office lingo that folks don’t mind so much?

These are the 10 least annoying business buzzwords of 2023, according to the survey: 

  1. At the end of the day 

  2. Debrief

  3. Sweep the floors

  4. SMB (small and mid-size business) 

  5. Table this

  6. B2C (business-to-consumer) 

  7. Blue sky thinking 

  8. Ideate 

  9. Game changer

  10. Teamwork/teambuilding/team players 

These findings from Preply align with some other recent surveys about corporate speak.

Language-learning app Duolingo recently teamed up with LinkedIn to survey more than 8,000 working professionals across eight countries about jargon on the job. And a majority (58%) of respondents said that their coworkers are overusing jargon. Almost half want to eliminate it altogether, with Gen Z and millennial workers (60% and 65%, respectively) being the most annoyed by jargon. And some of the most confusing terms highlighted in this survey were some familiar phrases, including “move the needle,” “low-hanging fruit” and “out of the box.” But the No. 1 most confusing business buzzword phrase in this survey was “boiling the ocean,” meaning to take on a task that’s unreasonably large or ambitious. 

What’s more, a recent Psychology Today article delved into corporate jargon to call out a whopping 32 business phrases that are among the most overused and annoying. They include some familiar ones like “circle back” and “low-hanging fruit,” as well as “drill down,” “deep dive,” “ping,” “headwinds” and “tailwinds,” as well as “wheelhouse,” “pivot” and “gain traction.”

So why do so many workplaces fall back on these corporate cliches? Psychology Today suggests that sometimes these metaphors really do help simplify a complex concept; they just get overused. Or perhaps business buzzwords are here to stay because they help many of us feel like we’re really part of a group or team that has embraced a shared language.

You know — to help us “synergize” and be in “alignment.” 

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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