Business jargon: we all use it. And lots of people hate it. Here are the most and least annoying business jargon words and phrases in 2021.
Almost everyone in the corporate world uses business jargon (or “corporate buzzwords,”“corporate buzzwords,” or whatever you want to call it) and it seems that equal numbers of people also enjoy complaining about it.
Why do so many people hate this type of lingo?
This type of language can be useful when trying to express ideas or thoughts that apply only to the business world and when trying to remain diplomatic and professional in communications. We say in an email that we’re “circling back” on something that hasn’t been resolved instead of “wondering why this hasn’t been freaking resolved yet.”
But business jargon is also often used by people trying to hide the fact that they have no idea what they’re talking about or are just talking for the sake of talking. And that’s annoying.
Which words and phrases are most annoying in 2021? MyPerfectResume conducted a survey of more than 1,000 people to find out. They learned that “giving 110%” is the worst while “scalable” is not so bad.
Here are the most and least annoying business jargon words and phrases in 2021.
The most annoying business jargon in 2021:
- Giving 110% (59%) — to give it your all, and more (technically impossible).
- I’ll ping you (59%) — to contact someone via computer or phone, which makes a pinging sound (not always).
- Think outside the box (56%) — to think creatively.
- Low-hanging fruit (54%) — something that can be obtained with little effort.
- Reinvent the wheel (53%) — to waste time trying to do something that has already been successfully done.
- Synergy (52%) — combined action or operation that results in something greater than its individual parts.
- Take it to the next level (50%) — to improve something that’s already successful.
- Blue sky thinking (49%) — brainstorming with no limits and where no idea is shot down for being silly.
- Bring to the table (49%) — contribute.
- Touch base (49%) — to briefly make contact or reconnect.
The least annoying business jargon in 2021:
- Agile (29%) — able to adapt quickly to change.
- Impact (32%) — effect or influence.
- Robust (34%) — strong.
- Gain traction (36%) — when things start to move towards the desired goal.
- Deep dive (38%) — a thorough examination of a subject.
- Leverage (38%) — make use of.
- Vertical (38%) — goods and services marketed to a specific group of customers.
- Scalable (40%) — able to grow without being stunted by structure or available resources.
- On the same page (41%) — having the same understanding as others.
- Lots of moving parts (41%) — a situation with many variables and contributing factors.
Who uses business jargon most?
Asked who they think overuses these phrases the most, respondents said:
- Upper management: 33%
- Colleagues: 30%
- Boss: 25%
- Me: 7%
- Direct reports: 5%
- 86% of respondents said they had used business jargon in their professional lives.
- 40% didn’t know these phrases were considered “business jargon.”
- 57% (a majority) think using business jargon makes people sound more professional and intelligent.
- 50% find business jargon annoying or really annoying.
- 38% feel under pressure to use corporate speak at work to fit in or appear competent.
- A vast majority of those feeling the pressure are less experienced workers (84% vs. 35%).
- 33% had used business jargon terms without knowing what they meant.
- 41% said the use of this language at work made them feel left out and disengaged.
Perhaps most interestingly, those without a university degree were significantly more likely than those with a degree to avoid using words whose meaning they don’t know. In fact, 89% of those without a degree avoid using words when they don’t know what they mean vs only 62% of workers with a bachelor’s degree and 57% with a master’s or doctorate.
Clearly, people have a complicated relationship with business jargon.
Should you use it? Sure. When it’s suitable. But avoid overusing it and try not to use business jargon to mask the fact that you don’t know what you’re talking about. You probably won’t be fooling anyone but yourself and you won’t be doing yourself any favours.