The 25 Most Annoying Business Phrases

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The 25 Most Annoying Business Phrases Managers Use

From the overused to the clichéd, we are inundated on a daily basis with annoying and ridiculous business phrases from the lips of well-meaning managers.

Why so many of us, present company included, rely on the latest catch phrases or tired business jargon to relay a particular message is unclear. Whether lazy, blocked or we really think it makes us sound important, we too often reach for the prepackaged word grouping instead of constructing an original sentence.

Tired of the constant use and misuse of worthless wordings, we decided to assemble a list of formulaic business phrases still in (over)use today. Of course, simply compiling a list of the worst or most annoying business phrases was too easy – narrowing that list to just twenty-five proved to be the hard part.

To add a little complexity to this project, we decided to author a single speech using all twenty-five of the most annoying business phrases. That speech, which you are encouraged to deliver at your company’s holiday party this year, is located at the bottom of this article.

After countless hours of debate, here is our list of the 25 Most Annoying Business Phrases Managers Use. For those wishing to sound more like true leaders, we included very simple replacement expressions for each.


  1. Think Outside of the Box – We cringe even writing this one. Inarguably the very worst, most annoying business phrase of all time, Think Outside of the Box has become such an overused cliché that Taco Bell coined their own version for a national ad campaign: Think Outside the Bun. Once the likes of Taco Bell, Sears, General Motors or 7-11 latch onto a popular phrase and add it to their lexicon, that phrase has officially become a caricature of its former self. The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Think Creatively.
  2. Give 110% – Our problems with this phrase are both the impossibility of giving 110% and the sheer belief that somehow, if you could actually give 110%, that this would be good enough. Why stop at 110%? What are you, a slacker? We know Nigel Tufnel would give 111%, anyway. The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Do Your Best.
  3. Hit the Ground Running – Meant to energize a team to start work on a project immediately, this overused idiom generally has the opposite effect. Usually the person telling their team to “hit the ground running” is some do-nothing who only hits the ground running when five o’clock rolls around. The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Get Started Immediately.
  4. The 30,000-Foot View – Though not the only use or misuse of this phrase, “the 30,000-foot view” is often uttered by pompous managers who believe they see the big picture that the rest of us are somehow missing. We get it, okay, you want us to believe you’re considering every outcome of a particular decision. The origins of this phrase, which is meant to describe the view from a commercial airplane (flying at 30,000 feet), have become so misunderstood that we often hear our colleagues refer to everything from the 5,000-foot view to the 100,000-foot view – clearly different views. The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: The Big Picture (we know this is also clichéd, but at least everyone will understand the meaning).
  5. FYI – The overused acronym meaning For Your Information, has become such an annoyance to hear uttered (writing FYI is sometimes useful) that one of our editors believes FYI actually means Fornicate You, Idiot. (Of course, he replaces “fornicate” with a common expletive.) He claims that it becomes a little more palatable to hear someone say “FYI” when you think of it in his context. Like putting the words “in bed” after your read the saying from a fortune cookie, this immature habit of his works well and is quite funny. The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: nothing (uttering “FYI” adds no value and does not need to be replaced – just stop saying it).
  6. Blocking and Tackling – Whenever someone in your business skips the basics and fails, managers will often say “it’s just blocking and tackling” to signify that the simplest of tasks were not completed. Of all the overused sports analogies applied to business, this is the most annoying because it implies that blocking and tackling are easy tasks. In football blocking and tackling are the most important tasks, and not necessarily the easiest. Without blocking, the offense cannot score. Without tackling, the defense cannot stop the offense. Since we don’t actually block or tackle at work, let’s drop this silly misuse. The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Primary Tasks or Basic Tasks.
  7. 800-Pound Gorilla – Used in business to mean some entity so dominating or uncontrollable (because of their power or size) that others must show respect/consideration, the term “800-pound gorilla” is so overused we feel like throwing poop. Given that the average gorilla weighs about 400 pounds (and usually likes to throw poop at zoo visitors), you can imagine the damage that an 800-pound gorilla would cause. Annoying because it is unnecessary, this phrase is so often misused (like 30,000-foot view) that we once heard “200-pound gorilla” and “1,000-pound gorilla” uttered in the same meeting – ugh! The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Industry Leader.
  8. Throw Under the Bus – Often correctly used to describe acts of betrayal in the workplace that provide a minor advantage to the one doing the throwing: “he really threw him under the bus,” this relatively new business phrase has quickly become an annoyance by its watered-down overuse. The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Sacrifice.
  9. Rightsizing – This politically correct term for “cutting expenses” vaults into our top ten by virtue of a recent explosion in usage. The current economic climate has forced businesses to make tough decisions, and these decisions most often include expense reductions and layoffs. Managers who feel uneasy using real world terminology to describe their actions take the coward’s course and declare they are rightsizing their organizations. If it was truly “rightsizing” we were doing, then we’d be doing it during good times too, wouldn’t we? The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Downsizing (that’s if you’re afraid of the word “layoff”).
  10. Reaching Out – This phrase is probably most annoying because it seems no one calls or emails anymore, they just reach out – its usage has certainly exploded. The image of someone reaching out to us is more than a little creepy, and yet more and more of our colleagues tell us they are “reaching out” to us – we’d prefer they just email. The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Contact.
  11. Low-Hanging Fruit – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Easy.
  12. Incremental Improvement – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Improvement.
  13. My Two Cents – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: My Opinion.
  14. Solutions Provider – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Vendor.
  15. Bring Your “A” Game – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Arrive Prepared.
  16. Tear Down the Silos – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Remove Barriers.
  17. Paradigm Shift – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Fundamental Change.
  18. Take it to the Next Level – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Improve.
  19. Light a Fire Under Him/Her – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Motivate.
  20. Client Engagement – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Meeting.
  21. Take it Offline – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Discuss it Later.
  22. At This Point in Time – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Now, Currently or Today.
  23. Give You a Heads Up – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Provide Notice.
  24. Synergy – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Collaboration.
  25. Action Item – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Task.

As promised, here is a speech you can deliver at your holiday party this year that will surely make you sound like either the most intelligent or most pompous person in the room. Intelligence is in the ear of the receiver.

I’m reaching out to you today to thank you for helping us make 2008 a solid year for our business. Despite the economic turmoil we face at this point in time, your dedication to synergy and out of the box thinking has allowed us to make incremental improvement in our rightsizing efforts. FYI, In order for us to take it to the next level, we need everyone to hit the ground running on their ‘09 action items and give 110%. As I take a 30,000-foot view of our industry, I see competitive solutions providers who must light a fire under their teams, tear down their silos and make significant paradigm shifts if they expect to catch us, the 800-Pound Gorilla. To these companies I say, “let me give you a heads up, you’d better bring your ‘A’ game if you want to beat us.” We are the industry’s best because we are superior in every way. We are better at blocking and tackling, we are better at gathering the low hanging fruit and we are better at exceeding expectations during client engagements. If we have disagreements, we take it offline – we never throw each other under the bus. If you want my two cents, I would rather work with this group than with the finest people on earth.

Now sit back and bask in the applause.