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Corporate buzzwords: a full guide about the use of office jargon


June 4, 2024


June 4, 2024

“Let's circle back and synergize our core competencies to engage in some blue-sky thinking and embrace the low-hanging fruit to ensure we have all our ducks in a row.” If you had to look up a word to get this sentence, you're not alone. Over half of young professionals admit to looking up a term in a meeting to understand the conversation, while 83% said they used a corporate buzzword they didn't understand to sound professional. 1

Welcome to the world of business buzzwords! That special blend of jargon in the office, popping up in meetings and flooding your emails. Here, we dive into the words that shape our work environments, from the catchphrases everyone loves to those annoying corporate phrases you hate.

Whatever you're looking for, from lists of workplace buzzword examples to business lingo dictionaries, we've got you covered. We'll see which corporate expressions boost communication and which harm it. So grab your coffee, and let's demystify the trending buzzwords that keep our office conversations buzzing.

Definition of corporate buzzwords

Corporate buzzwords, also known as business jargon or office lingo, are words or phrases commonly used in work settings. They’re meant to convey complex ideas succinctly and demonstrate professional expertise. But they can sometimes make things more confusing instead of clearer.

While the right jargon can help everyone get on the same page in your workplace, using too much or the wrong kind can really throw people off. In fact, a LinkedIn survey revealed that 48% of younger workers like Millennials and Gen Z feel left out when these trending buzzword phrases fly over their heads.

Common industry buzzword examples include “synergy,” “low-hanging fruit,” “think outside the box,” “circle back”, and “touch base”. While some corporate lingo like “FYI” tends to be harmless, terms such as “rockstar” or “ninja” in job descriptions might push potential applicants away because they come off as more flashy than sincere.

What to think about business buzzwords: are they good or bad?

As we explained before, buzzwords and corporate lingo are useful for expressing complex ideas concisely and fostering shared understanding within an organization. While some jargon, like “FYI,” is harmless, others, such as “circle back”, took the #1 spot on the list of most annoying buzzwords. 2

Yet, people commonly use business lingo at work, with 38% appearing in emails, 29% in person, and 24% in instant messages. 2 The problem is that excessive or inappropriate use can also hurt communication, come across as inauthentic or exclusionary, and create barriers, especially for people who don't know corporate lingo. 

For example, many Gen Z and millennial workers are unfamiliar with common workplace phrases adopted by older generations, creating a communication gap. Plus, 55% of survey respondents view buzzwords negatively in job postings, with only 2% finding them appealing. 3

Ultimately, business buzzwords are neither good nor bad; their impact depends on how they’re used. They tend to be useful for shorthand exchanges within industries, but overuse or misuse can ruin clarity, creativity, and trust. The key is to strike a balance between plain language and relevant jargon to convey expertise without compromising inclusivity or authenticity.

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Colleagues having discussion
Colleagues having discussion

Millennials and Gen Z's opinions about office buzzwords

Millennials and Gen Z view buzzwords and corporate jargon quite differently from older generations. They often feel confused and excluded by terms such as “blue-sky thinking” and “low-hanging fruit”. More than 60% of young workers say corporate lingo is similar to a foreign language. 1 Often, this leads to misunderstandings during meetings when they have to look up terms or use confusing words.  

While a significant 67% of Gen Z and Millennials recognize that being fluent in workplace language could aid their career progression 1, they also express frustration with the overuse of certain buzzwords. Interestingly, these younger generations are injecting their own slang into the workplace, like “vibe,” “no cap” (meaning to tell the truth), and “bet”.

With so many Gen Zers not knowing common corporate lingo, workplace communication has a generational disconnect. To bridge this gap, you’ll need an effective cross-generational communication strategy that incorporates traditional corporate speech with modern terminology.

The 20 most used office jargon phrases

We could all use a business jargon dictionary. So, without further ado, here are some of the most used corporate buzzword examples.

  1. Touch base: A way of saying “let's talk” or “let's meet to discuss something”.
  2. Deep dive: A thorough exploration or analysis of a particular subject or issue.
  3. Take it offline: To have a private conversation rather than in the current meeting or forum.
  4. Social proof: The psychological concept where people are influenced by others, pushing them to act within societal norms or expectations. 
  5. Thought leadership: Being recognized as an authority in a specific field, often highlighted through insights that address industry challenges.
  6. Sync: To ensure information is consistent and updated across all relevant parties or devices.
  7. Pushback: Resistance or opposition to a proposal or idea.
  8. Pipeline: In business, a system for tracking and pursuing potential clients or projects.
  9. Have in one’s back pocket: To have something prepared but not yet revealed.
  10. Loop in: To include someone in a group or process.
  11. FYI: “For Your Information” - Used to inform somebody of a specific matter.
  12. Win-Win: A situation or outcome that is good for everyone involved.
  13. Unpack: To analyze or examine something in detail.
  14. Above and beyond: Going beyond what is required or expected.
  15. Hop on a call: To start or join a telephone conversation or virtual meeting.
  16. Level up: To increase or improve something in order to reach the next level.
  17. Out of pocket: To be unavailable or unreachable.
  18. Ping you: To contact or send a brief message.
  19. Bandwidth: The capacity to handle or manage work.
  20. On my radar: Being aware of or monitoring a situation.

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woman giving presentation with graphs
Meeting with corporate jargon

The 10 most annoying corporate phrases

Here’s a rundown of the top ten annoying corporate phrases that might make you and your coworkers cringe.

  1. Circle back: To revisit or follow up on a topic after gathering more information or after other events have occurred.
  2. Think outside the box: A call to think creatively, beyond the usual ways of considering a problem.
  3. Low-hanging fruit: Easy tasks or goals that are readily achievable without much effort.
  4. Synergize: To collaborate effectively, combining strengths to achieve more significant results.
  5. Boil the ocean: To attempt an impossible task or project.
  6. Blue sky thinking: Creative ideas that are not limited by current thinking or beliefs.
  7. Move the needle: To cause a noticeable change or improvement.
  8. Let's table this: To postpone or put an issue aside.
  9. Put a pin in it: To pause or stop discussing a topic to address it later.
  10. Get ducks in a row: To organize things well.

The 10 funniest corporate lingo

Who said corporate jargon phrases couldn't be funny? You'll laugh at these 10 corporate lingos.

  1. Open the kimono: To share information openly, particularly that which is often kept private.
  2. Trim the fat: To talk about the action of reducing unnecessary business expenses.
  3. Drink the Kool-Aid: To completely buy into an idea or plan, often without critical thought.
  4. Voluntold: To be told to volunteer.
  5. Bain dump: To put all the ideas going on in your head on paper.
  6. Jump the shark: To mark a point at which something begins to decline in quality or appeal.
  7. Run it up the flagpole: To present an idea to see if it receives approval.
  8. Herding cats: Trying to control or organize a group that is inherently uncontrollable.
  9. Throw it up and see what sticks: To try something to see what is successful.
  10. Boots on the ground: People physically present in an area or working on a task.

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The 14 workplace buzzwords in 2024

We're well into 2024, so staying on top of this year’s trending buzzwords is important. Here a some corporate jargon examples you'll want to know this year:

  1. Hybrid work: A work arrangement that includes both remote and on-site work.
  2. Quiet quitting: Doing the bare minimum required by one's job responsibilities without formally resigning.
  3. Artificial Intelligence: AI technologies becoming increasingly integral in workplace automation and decision-making processes.
  4. COP/EOP/EOD: Refers to the end of the business day.
  5. Touchpoint: A point of communication between a company and its customers.
  6. Elevator pitch: A brief and persuasive speech to spark interest in what your organization does.
  7. Ballpark figure: An approximate number.
  8. Brick and mortar: Physical buildings, especially in retail.
  9. Customer-centric: Putting the customer at the center of business decisions.
  10. Greenfield project: A project that lacks constraints imposed by prior work.
  11. USP: The factor presented by a seller as the reason that one product is different from and better than that of the competition.
  12. MVP: The most pared-down version of a product that can still be released.
  13. Coffee badging: The informal act of promoting one’s achievements during casual interactions, like coffee breaks.
  14. Office peacocking: Showcasing one's skills or accomplishments prominently to gain attention in the workplace.

Group of people looking and pointing at laptop
Team having discussion

Best practices when it comes to the use of corporate buzzwords

When using business jargon, there are some best practices to follow. Here are the most important ones.

Moderation is key

When buzzwords are overused, they become inauthentic and come off as exclusionary. Keep it simple and only incorporate relevant jargon when possible.

Know your audience

Remember who you're talking to. Using too many buzzwords can annoy those unfamiliar with the jargon, such as customers, new employees, or people from different cultures. Make sure everyone understands what you're saying.

Provide context

If using industry-specific terms, provide context or clear explanations, especially when addressing a broad audience. This ensures your message is understood and prevents confusion.

Avoid gimmicky language

Phrases like “rockstar” or “ninja” in job postings can deter applicants by sounding too gimmicky or insincere. Stick to straightforward language that accurately represents the role and company culture.

Bridge generational gaps

Almost 40% of Gen Z workers don't know common workplace phrases used by older demographic groups. To promote cross-generational understanding, use modern lingo and avoid outdated jargon.

Back up claims

If you use buzzwords like “innovator” or “team player” in your resume or job application, back them up with specific examples.

By following these tips, you can ensure that buzzwords enhance rather than hinder communication in your workplace.

As we wrap up our deep dive into corporate buzzwords, remember it's not just about keeping all your ducks in a row or frequently touching base. It's about making sure that when we circle back or leverage our synergies, we’re actually communicating effectively and not just filling the air with buzz. 

Keep it light, relevant, and understandable. Whether you're a seasoned pro at navigating office jargon or still figuring out if you've been unintentionally 'boiling the ocean', the key takeaway is simple: use buzzwords thoughtfully to improve understanding, not complicate it. Here’s to making our workplace lingo as productive and inclusive as possible, with no need for a dictionary or a decoder!

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1Gen Z and millennial workers feel confused, irritated, and left out by endless 'workplace jargon' in the office, LinkedIn research shows, Business Insider.

2 Study Reveals the Most Annoying Corporate Jargon, Preply.

3 Corporate buzzwords: good, bad, or scaring off new hires?, EHL Insights.

Corporate buzzwords: a full guide about the use of office jargon

Paulyne Sombret

Paulyne is a highly respected expert in hybrid work. She's known for her writing on sustainability in the hybrid office, flexible work models, and employee experience. With a strong background in content and SEO, her work explores the exciting trends and latest news in the world of work.

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