The Ten Worst Business Phrases of All Time

I’ve probably blogged about this before, but I’m pretty sure something will burst out of my chest to destroy all mankind if I hear another business person mention getting our ducks in a row. I mean, no-one tells you what the ducks are, nor which goes at which end of the row, and is one more important than another? Just say “get organised” or “plan”.

Here are my top-ten most awful examples:

  1. My all time pet hate is liaise. A former senior colleague used to say that I’d need to liase with so-and-so on that. Loose translation: that has nothing to do with me/I don’t care/I’m passing the buck (Oh no! I’ve just used another one!). OK, this may not be business jargon strictly, but I HATED it! It’s definitely number one on this list.
    Alternative? Contact so-and-so. Simple!
  2. It’s hard to kill a bad thing, to be sure. When will we get over our love affair with thinking outside the box!? I actually groaned out loud at the sight of a business website the other day that was named outside the box thinking. Surely not?
    Alternative? Call it what is it: lateral thinking.
  3. Have you ever experienced a paradigm shift? Or caused one? That’ll impress the new client, won’t it? Well, it might if you had a cotton-picking clue what the word paradigm meant! And, having looked it up, what in the course of everyday business planning could possibly merit employing this lofty word? Which stationer to change to for compliment slips?
    Alternative? Change of direction/emphasis/type.
  4. We need to run/float this past [insert name of middle-manager]. Must we really run or float? I mean, I’m not entering a triathlon. Alternative? Consult/discuss/meet with.
  5. Then there is the woeful actioning something. Repeat after me slowly, ‘action’ is a noun, not a verb. You cannot force it to be a verb through the sheer force of your will or the number of times you try to make it so.
    Alternative? Take action on [something].
  6. Many of the clichés used by business people come from the world of sport and coaching. For example, I’ll touch base with you later in the week.
    Alternative? Please, please, just say I’ll call/email/tweet.
  7. We need to slam dunk (more sporting metaphors!) this. It’s commonly used to refer to finishing a project.
    Alternative? Complete; wrap up, even.
  8. Moving forward… This simply means the person is trying, artlessly, to minimise your concerns, to move the conversation away from what you’re talking about to safer ground. And, there’s often an element of dismissiveness in there too.
    Alternative: Deal briefly with the issue at hand; do not ignore it.
  9. Broad-side, as in You wouldn’t want to broadside the customer. I’m not sure whether this is a sporting or car-wreck metaphor. It may be both. In fact, one may have borrowed from the other. It gives a mental image and that is good, but it’s so over-used. We don’t (often) use actual rugby tackles in the business world.
    Alternative? Annoy, alienate.
  10. An alternative to broadsiding the customer is escalating their complaint. It was always while on the phone to a phone company/ISP/internet provider, so I felt a little intimidated to ask what they meant. Only when I went to work for a software house did I realise that it simply means to sort out the problem.
    Alternatives? We are going to deal with your issue promptly.

And, another thing.

Apparently we can’t have brain-storms anymore incase they offend people with epilepsy. What idiocy! I have them all the time and they’ve never hurt anyone yet! In the interests of quashing anything resembling political correctness, I’m not providing an alternative. I reserve my right, as a non-epileptic, to use whatever words I choose!

I’m starting a campaign to get rid of these words and silly phrases by sheer force of not using them and laughing out loud when someone else does. Anyone want to join me? And, feel free to add your most awful top ten, or one, in a comment below.

Image credit: Simon Blackley.