Business Clichés I Prefer Not to Hear Again


June 25, 2012 by Chris Nöthling

They don’t seem to mean anything but everyone uses them. They are part of the business language and their use is so prevalent that it is hard not for them to drop into conversation in any business context. Perhaps some of the reasons for their prevalence include the implicit assumption that they project an aura of competence: we sound awfully clever and in control of we can trot them off the tongue.

As humans we tend to imitate. One of the reasons is that we have this deep need to sound the same to be considered part of the team. We want to belong so we copy each other: We adopt similar intonation, inflections, prosody, and phrases. Pretty soon they are used at all levels of the organisation. A second reason is that we want to progress. If everyone at all levels uses these phrases then chances are we will also do so – if your boss is using them pretty soon you will too.

Apart from the obvious fact that we all end up sounding like moronic parrots, my issue with them is that they foster poor communication and poor thinking. The problem is they are not very original and we end up using them in a hackneyed fashion for a range of circumstances – many of them bearing little relevance to the choice of phrase. They are also open to such a broad range of interpretation that there is hardly any consistency of understanding between people on the receiving end. When I hear someone talk about team-player I will invariably have a very different picture in my head from you.

If we are too lazy to think about things in a unique way and simply repeat what everyone else is sprouting – then the quality of our thinking on other issues is likely to suffer too. Our thinking is literally constrained by the way we chose to phrase and articulate about the problems we are facing. If we want to think creatively we need to avoid these hackneyed phrases and find a more original way of talking and thinking.

I would love to confront the next person I hear using one of these but they will probably be someone who has some influence over my continued employment and advancement. So I will probably just smile and repeat the next one on the list.

My apologies if I offend you but here is my list of phrases I would prefer not to hear again:

    1. organizational benchmark
    2. paradigm shift
    3. data-driven
    4. a win-win
    5. blue sky
    6. green-field
    7. clear-skin
    8. team player
    9. put that in the parking lot
    10. let’s touch base
    11. take this off-line
    12. think outside the box
    13. have the bandwidth
    14. bench-strength
    15. where the rubber meets the road
    16. right-size
    17. next-gen
    18. turn-key
    19. plug-and-play
    20. boots on the ground
    21. square the circle
    22. synergize
    23. step up to the plate
    24. monetize
    25. at the end of the day
    26. put lipstick on this pig
    27. putting a stake in the ground
    28. t-it up
    29. proactive
    30. stick to our knitting
    31. face some headwinds
    32. incent it
    33. do due diligence
    34. leave money on the table
    35. tear down the silos
    36. move the needle
    37. the old 80-20 rule
    38. going forward
    39. open door policy
    40. scalable
    41. best-of-breed
    42. value-add
    43. go-to-person
    44. get some push-back
    45. put our game face on
    46. close the loop
    47. low-hanging fruit
    48. best practice
    49. loop you in
    50. peel back the onion
    51. run with it
    52. run it to ground
    53. buy-in
    54. leading edge
    55. give 110%
    56. take it to the next level
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One thought on “Business Clichés I Prefer Not to Hear Again

  1. Fred Lukowski CFP says:

    Chris you are “on the mark”. It seems that we use these phrases without thinking because it is easy. I’m getting less patient these days and want to get to the point of a discussion instead of the listening to the waffle.

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