Jargon is an affliction which plagues the business world with a plethora of meaningless cliches and pointless buzzwords, and HR is no exception. We've pinpointed a few of the worst offenders: can you remember what jargon floored you when you started working in HR - and what really grates with you now?
The workplace is overwrought with cliches, buzzwords and industry jargon, often leading to a 'disconnect' (oops, there we go already) between coworkers (i.e. you have no idea what they're saying, but you nod and smile anyway). 'Viral' terms and phrases like these are among the most overused in the office, according to a recent Accountemps survey.
In a poll of 150 senior US executives from the country's 1,000 largest companies, executives were asked, "What is the most annoying or overused phrase or buzzword in the workplace today?" Their responses included:
- Leverage: As in, 'we intend to leverage our investment in IT infrastructure across multiple business units to drive profits'.
- Reach out: As in, 'remember to reach out to customers impacted by the change'.
- It is what it is: As in, 'the server is down today, and clients are irate. It is what it is'.
- Viral: As in, 'our video has gone viral'.
- Game changer: As in, 'transitioning from products to solutions was a game changer for our company'.
- Disconnect: As in, 'there is a disconnect between what the consumer wants and what the product provides'.
- Value-add: As in, 'we have to evaluate the value-add of this activity before we spend more on it'.
- Circle back: As in, 'I'm heading out of the office now, but I will circle back with you later'.
- Socialise: As in, 'we need to socialize this concept with our key stakeholders'.
- Interface: As in, 'My job requires me to interface with all levels of the organisation'.
Accountemps conducted a similar survey in 2004. The following 'Hall-of-Fame' buzzwords were cited in both surveys:
- At the end of the day
- Think outside the box
- On the same page
Some phrases cited in the most recent survey suggest executives are suffering from recession fatigue, including:
- Do more with less
- Gloom and doom
- Pay freeze
"Nearly everyone is guilty of using buzzwords from time to time," Messmer noted. "But professionals are evaluated increasingly on their ability to communicate. Avoiding overused terms, particularly in formal communication, can help workers more effectively convey their message."
This article has appeared on both Accountingweb.co.uk and BusinessZone.co.uk. The community was quick to add their thoughts on their most irritating jargon.
Sue Acton, Founder/Director of Bubble & Balm said: "Here's a few 'gems' from my corporate days:
- 'deep dive' - as in 'we need to conduct a deep dive with this data to see what's really going on'
- 'granularity' - as in 'we need to get this information to a greater level of granularity'
- 'war-game' - as in 'lets war-game the different options to assess possible outcomes'
- 'world-class' - as in 'this product is world-class'
- 'educate the customer' - as in 'we need to educate the customer on the benefits of this product'.
Hard habit to break though...I found myself talking about 'dovetailing' the other day!"
Sue is right, and it's true - we all find ourselves falling into the jargon trap, especially when we are surrounded by people who talk 'corporate-speak' fluently all day. Other readers on BusinessZone added 'cascading' - most often heard in HR circles as 'cascade that strategy down through the organisation' and 'joined-up thinking', which is probably the buzz-prase most often heard across all sectors.
However we're sure HR has plenty of others to add. My most hated piece of jargon at the moment is 'unpack', as in; 'Let me unpack that idea for you'. A while ago I sat through a lecture from someone who over-used that phrase and I fail to see how it clarified anything - but it was very annoying.
What about you? Do cliches like 'get back to the shopfloor', 'added value' or 'on the same page' really grate with you? Or is there another phrase bandied about in your organisation which makes you grit your teeth and set your jaw for a very long meeting indeed?
Tell us about your most hated jargon below.