Thought leadership, best practice, disruption, core competencies. If you feel nauseous every time you hear these tired phrases, you’re not alone. Perhaps you regularly partake in the game of ‘How many corporate buzzwords can I count in this meeting?’ If so, you’re one of the cynical types, like me.
So, which terms and phrases get under my skin the most? Here’s a list.
A euphemism for the supposedly easy targets or quick wins. Low-hanging fruit is symbolic of a task or project within easy reach – something that can be picked with minimal effort or difficulty. If you’re looking to get some proverbial runs on the board with the powers that be, the low-hanging fruit is the fastest way to get there.
Take it offline
An equally absurd variation of ‘let’s put this on the backburner.’ This means ‘we’ll talk about this later, and not in front of everyone in the room.’ It’s a belittling phrase implying that your point isn’t relevant right now.’ Most often heard in meetings.
A narcissistic, elusive prize or status that most organisations tend to award themselves. This clumsy verbal construct that has no need to exist, and, to quote Copyblogger: ‘Saying ‘thought leadership’ instead of influence is like Homer Simpson calling his garage a ‘car hole.’
The gold standard, industry benchmark, or level we aspire to. Whichever douchebag consultant dreamt up this pompous confection needs to be slapped.
Best practice is highly subjective. It’s all about perception. You cannot gauge the quality of a practice in this context, and, without any kind of universal scale, ‘best’ is simply a worthless standard.
Self-helpy term that lots of managers and companies say they do to their employees. The problem is, being empowered means feeling in control and having the freedom to take action as determined by one’s own judgment, which is kind of opposite of the effect that corporations seem committed to really driving home.
This awful expression refers to a firm’s or a person’s fundamental strength, even though that’s not what the word ‘competent’ means. Competent is merely capable – you can do it, but not necessarily well. It’s fair to say that most customers don’t seek this standard. We gravitate towards excellent, exceptional or outstanding over mediocre.
Asking for someone’s ‘buy-in’ is essentially getting them on board with something. Buy-in is often needed at the executive level to give big projects traction, and authority. One can then name drop whenever there’s doubt about something.
E.g. “David Hudson, our CFO, is supporting this, so it’s quite important to the business.”
If you’re hired for a job, the assumption is that you will ‘add value’ in some way, shape or form. Why else would a company pay you for something? What else would one contribute if not value? Salty snacks?
More than is expected, to exceed expectations. I’m terrible at maths, but even I know that giving 110 percent is not possible. Giving 100 percent means putting in absolutely everything you have – you cannot give anything more, whether it’s time, effort, resources or anything else.
Since we like to think everyone gives 100 percent by default, there’s consequently a need to adjust the scale to accommodate those who go above and beyond this level. Those recognised for giving 110 percent are usually measured by personal sacrifice, not necessarily personal productivity or delivered outcomes. It’s like an A for effort in the business world.
A sexier, albeit wankier way of saying ‘cooperation’. The appeal behind synergy is that by working harmoniously with others you will tap into or unlock a greater capability, and deliver more to the organisation. Often used interchangeably with ‘collaboration’.
‘I just don’t have the bandwidth’ – you’ve probably heard this one a lot. It’s basically a way of saying ‘I don’t have the time, energy or resources to take on this task or project.’ It’s not unreasonable to opt out of something because of these reasons, but just say so in plain English. You’re not a computer, as such bandwidth is a terrible way to measure your capacity.
Elephant in the room
This metaphorical idiom is used to describe the subject or issue that no one wishes to discuss for whatever reason – sensitivities, awkwardness, conflict, or denial are common ones. It’s an easy way to reference a problem, without really acknowledging it’s a problem.
800 pound gorilla
A way of describing the dominant player in the market. This is usually a competitor who is delivering products and / or services faster, better, and cheaper than you. The 800 pound gorilla is an organisation that is so big, and so powerful that you have little to no chance of moving or disrupting it.
There are, of course, thousands of other ridiculous corporate phrases that make you cringe every time, but the aforementioned are probably the ones most likely to make me dry reach.
What business buzzwords get on your nerves the most?