The 25 Most Annoying Business Phrases
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- FYI – The overused abbreviation of 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”).
- 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.
- Low-Hanging Fruit – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Easy.
- Incremental Improvement – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Improvement.
- My Two Cents – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: My Opinion.
- Solutions Provider – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Vendor.
- Bring Your “A” Game – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Arrive Prepared.
- Tear Down the Silos – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Remove Barriers.
- Paradigm Shift – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Fundamental Change.
- Take it to the Next Level – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Improve.
- Light a Fire Under Him/Her – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Motivate.
- Client Engagement – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Meeting.
- Take it Offline – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Discuss it Later.
- At This Point in Time – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Now, Currently or Today.
- Give You a Heads Up – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Provide Notice.
- Synergy – The AskTheManager replacement phrase leaders should use: Collaboration.
- 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 last year a winning period 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.
May 30, 2023 @ 8:38 AM
“Perfection is the enemy of good” – thanks Ms. Voltaire – let’s remember that when its time to do my annual evaluation. :-/
May 23, 2023 @ 10:16 AM
Lots of great submissions here, but my most hated has got to be the incorrect use of “myself”, as in, “Reach out to Mike or myself.” No, derpwad, the word is “me”; reach out to Mike or me. This is a classic case of someone trying to sound intelligent and shining a freakin’ Klieg light on their own ignorance, not to mention pomposity. The rule is this: myself can only be used after the speaker has already made reference to themself in a sentence: “I wouldn’t do that myself.” It’s another pandemic that was pushed out of the headlines due to COVID, along with typing an apostrophe before the s in every plural word, as in “I took my dog’s for a walk.” Can you say homicidal rage? Sure, I knew ya could!
February 3, 2023 @ 11:56 AM
We had a manager that HAD TO jam the word “ramifications” into almost every sentence he spoke (whether the word belonged there or not). It got super annoying.
February 3, 2023 @ 11:57 AM
It was like he was super proud that he knew that word…. like when a 5 year old learns a big word so they just keep saying it as much as possible.
May 20, 2022 @ 3:16 PM
I say FYI when I’m telling someone about something, that I want them to have visibility on but requires NO action on their part.
April 22, 2022 @ 2:43 PM
Is this thread still alive? Not to be pedantic, but I believe your explanation of 50,000 foot view is incorrect, although it has been bastardized to how you explained it. A 50,000 foot view I’m pretty sure refers to a map scale of 1:50,000. That is a pretty common scale and means each inch on the map is equal to 50,000 feet on the ground. That is considered by many to be the first of the “large scale” views.
November 8, 2021 @ 8:30 AM
might’ve carried more weight if you hadn’t used ‘on a daily basis’ in the first paragraph
November 8, 2021 @ 8:38 AM
Ugh. Nice catch.
May 7, 2021 @ 8:49 AM
The worst term in current corporate parlance is “ask” – as in, Joe has “an ask” of you. Other than making a verb into a noun, “the ask” is somehow meant as a softer term than “request.” The term “request” makes the “requestor” somehow subservient to the resource responsible for the follow-through. It’s easier to refuse a “request” than an “ask” (aka “demand”)
May 7, 2021 @ 9:21 AM
Agreed! Simply awful! We included it our book detailing the 212 worst business jargon; here’s the excerpt from the book: https://askthemanager.com/2021/01/the-ask/#.YJVMerVKiMo
March 21, 2021 @ 5:40 PM
1. “Back in the day,” reminiscent of “at the end of the day.” In both, WHICH day are you referring to?
2. “Pre-plan/ning” This is what happened before you realized a plan was required.
3. “Reach out to…” It’s been pointed out a lot, but that means it’s horrid and must be stopped, as “moving forward” must be terminated.
4. “[someone/something] Went missing.” Like “gone fishing?” Didn’t that require pre-planning?
5. “Run it up the flagpole.”
6. “Efforting.” No sheet, I heard someone say this with a serious expression on his face.
7. “Look!” Any politician and political analyst worth his or her weight in bullshit supplants “So…” with “Look!” I actually believe it’s an indicator of how little the person mouth-farting it thinks of the mental acuity of the person receiving it. It can easily be interpreted as dismissive and patronizing.
February 15, 2021 @ 3:59 PM
Its interesting to see how some of these phrases are taken out of context by corporate environment. For instance, to “Take it offline” is similar to the military phrase “To discuss offline” which involves side-baring some tangent (but important) topic that comes up in the middle of a meeting (usually a video teleconference, ie online). Discussing it offline is a statement that the topic while important, is not pertinent to the current discussion and a different form of communication (usually phone, email, or one-on-one) would allow for better use of the limited available bandwidth (time limitations) of the ongoing discussion.
Reach out is another interesting one, because it symbolizes more then just to make contact. In the military it means to make contact across a broad separation (Physical, organizational, or leadership hierarchy). like between a senior leader and a junior enlisted member, or between different organizations. I might say that I would contact my fellow sailor, but I would reach out to somebody from a different command.
These were two of the ones that stood out to me.
January 6, 2023 @ 5:59 PM
“Take it off-line” was one I heard in the late 90’s and early 2000’s in construction management meetings, long before video teleconferencing became common, indicating that it was a convo that was not germane to the whole meeting group so could be addressed by a smaller sub-set.
November 23, 2020 @ 9:26 AM
There is now a Facebook page titled “People Against ‘Reach Out’.”
November 23, 2020 @ 12:01 PM
August 18, 2020 @ 9:14 PM
How about “Spot On” .. please stop it.
August 18, 2020 @ 10:40 PM
Ugh… so bad.
September 9, 2020 @ 7:26 PM
How about “cadence” Soooo very tired of hearing that word!
March 5, 2020 @ 7:06 PM
I especially hate “It’s in our DNA”. Folks, you don’t get to pick what’s in your DNA – you’re stuck with what you got.
A close second is “it’s in our wheelhouse”. What, you’re a captain on an old-time steamboat? It’s the 21st centry, folks.
January 22, 2020 @ 3:09 PM
How about G.O.A.T. Relatively new, but I already hate it
January 22, 2020 @ 3:10 PM
Ugh… so bad!
August 28, 2019 @ 6:32 PM
The hill you want to die on
jump n jehosofatty
June 12, 2019 @ 5:47 AM
It is what it is. Aaaaaaagh!
January 5, 2019 @ 12:18 PM
I don’t know if this one’s been mentioned here (I didn’t read every comment), but one that always catches my ear is “the John Does of the world” or “the ACME Corporations of the world” to refer to . . . you guessed it, just little old John Doe and the one ACME Corp in existence. I heard a political reporter the other day refer to the “Marco Rubios” of the world, as if the world is just teaming with clones of Senator Rubio.?
January 5, 2019 @ 12:49 PM
Ugh. So annoying. Nice addition to the list!
November 29, 2021 @ 12:45 AM
I see someone already mentioned “it is what it is” but I’ve heard that phrase all too often coupled with “at the end of the day”…
During one particular meeting, I wagered a colleague that we would hear the statement “At the end of the day, it is what it is.”
Those eleven words ended the presentation. That was the most pleasurable cup of coffee I’ve ever had.
November 4, 2018 @ 8:26 PM
Writ Large has got to go — its origin goes back to Plato and his Republic. It’s used in my old org to represent the VP’s opinion, much like sending an email with ALL CAPS.
The same organization had a director who graduated eons ago from MIT and was fond of comparing everything to the “tragedy of the commons,” a phrase then taken up by his minions to describe anything from HR benefits to lifetime extension programs for weapons.
There existed a director in that same place who believed dressing in a comparable fashion to his VP was an advancement tool. Poor guy was completely flummoxed when a woman was promoted into the slot.
Charlene D Newton
August 17, 2018 @ 11:43 AM
What about, “That said”! The first repetitive use of this phrase was by a project manager in the midwest. Since then, it seems to have proliferated and is even used on your site. To me, this is the most annoying phrase I have heard in years! What’s wrong with: In addition, or To the contrary? There are much finer ways to link what you have said to what you are going to say next! [That said,] do you have further suggestions? In this example, “that said” should be omitted. It adds nothing, except annoyance!
July 16, 2018 @ 1:26 AM
GEEEZ!!!!! Let’s just call a monkey a monkey…..
1) moving forward / let’s not blame anyone for the massive failure let’s just get past it without dealing with the problem at hand because management made the mistake
2) Cadense / let’s stay on task and not loose focus because again management made mistakes and we need to hurry and forget about them
3) Pillar / let’s set new goals that increase in size exponentially so we can forget about the old goals that management set and didn’t meet
4) Coaching / trian the people i dont like because work IS PERSONAL as much as they say it isn’t!!
September 9, 2020 @ 7:28 PM
Exactly! All of that! So annoying!
June 5, 2018 @ 12:03 PM
One of my least favorite is “it’s a no-brainer”. It sounds dumb, and is superfluous.
Also objectionable is “we are in a transition phase” meaning that “we don’t know the plan, so please stop asking til we tell you after we get our shit together.”
May 17, 2018 @ 8:44 AM
Using terms like these is no different than talking in pig-latin when we were kids. We thought we were cool when we could talk in front of certain people and they didn’t know what we were saying. It made us smarter and better than them. Turns out, it just made us rude.
How about… not in our wheelhouse. I had to look that one up the first time I heard it. Who keeps making this stuff up? Funny thing – when you google them, you realize other people had to look it up too.
August 30, 2019 @ 2:21 PM
Yes, “not in our wheelhouse”!! Or, “we’ll circle back”, and I hear Management always referring to “metrics”. In the USA, we still measure inches and feet.
October 23, 2017 @ 5:42 PM
Managers need to start using “alternative truth”.
June 4, 2017 @ 7:07 PM
Awesome, cool, price point, I get it/that, solutions center, customer care…
April 29, 2017 @ 9:18 PM
Hate this…”this isn’t personal, it’s just business”, as you’re being laid off! Sure feels personal!
November 17, 2018 @ 5:19 PM
Cheri, it’s always personal! Usually an insensitive jerk uses this phrase to hurt someone while dismissing any due guilt!
February 5, 2017 @ 10:02 AM
This is great. I’d like to comment on one that might not seem like the worst, but could be.
“John, you need to reach out to Sally more, and ask questions.”
Ok why didn’t you just say John you need to ask Sally more questions? Why did you add this “reaching out” thing? REACHING out to anyone makes me picture it literally, like stretching your arms out and reaching as if you really really need it and might even be desperate. When there’s actually no reason at all under the sun to have even added those 2 extra words in the first place. Let’s all use normal people sentences and talk to each other like normal people. And not use strange buzz-phrases just because we heard our boss say it and we want to be like him/her. Grow a pair and talk with your own correct vocabulary, and don’t be a sucker how about that.
November 17, 2018 @ 5:21 PM
Well said, Justin!!!
August 30, 2019 @ 1:58 PM
HOORAY!!! I thought I was alone with all these irritating phrases! Hate “reach out” and “touch base”. They make my skin crawl they are so obnoxious.
December 13, 2016 @ 5:46 AM
Hey – nice article but noticed someone likes it a little too much!… you should ask for credit or report…
March 10, 2017 @ 9:24 AM
Forgot to thank you for the heads up. It took a couple of weeks of shaming, but we got the gentleman to take down his near-exact version of our list.
June 5, 2018 @ 12:05 PM
We could use a buzzword for this, plagiarism is too punitive. How about “blogswipe?”
November 2, 2016 @ 5:57 PM
I LOVE this stuff! I mean, I hate it/love it. “REACH OUT??” Who started this one? Tony Soprano? Maybe I just overlooked it, but I don’t see “circle back” here. I listen to an attorney all day saying “I’m just circling back with you on the (whatever).” Also “what’s your gut on this??” I want to say “Gut issues?? Maybe a probiotic or some BEANO would help?” AND, I just love this one in the office: “How was your evening last night?” “Oh, you know. Sat in traffic for 45 minutes after we left here. Got home. Turned on the lights. Went through the junk mail. Changed into my sweats. Cleaned out the cat box and put down some Fussie Cat to get the cycle going again. Heated up some Trader Joe’s green chili cheese tamales for myself and settled into another evening of whatever’s on PBS. Hollered at the TV when Donald Trump opened up his pie hole for the millionth time today.” And they ask you this EVERY. FREAKING. DAY. I’m 64 years old. WTF do you think I did last night that you would find OH SO VERY INTERESTING? And kindly notice that I never ask you this same question. Why, you ask? Well, call me anti-social if you like. But I’m just not interested in what you did after work yesterday. Kindly find someone else to practice your conversational cretin with.
September 9, 2016 @ 9:23 AM
We’ve had to switch to making fun of these in our meetings to discourage their use, but:
– Coming down the pipe (makes me think of George Carlin and ‘tubes’)
– In the Loop (Where is this loop? Is it near the pipe?)
– Go slow to go fast (what?!)
– Currently, now (As opposed to currently, later?)
September 9, 2016 @ 9:25 AM
Beautiful! Thank you for sharing – your four examples would drive me crazy!
August 11, 2016 @ 6:31 PM
Thanks for not running the whole gambit on this one and not try to boil the ocean
August 9, 2016 @ 9:56 PM
Oh God Thank you for this. I have to endure the stupid phrase “reach out” in every pointless meeting at work. Here is a new one from an email our receptionist showed to me to see if I could figure out what the guy meant (used no less than 3 times): “I will connect with (name of person omitted)”. I blurted out to our receptionist “What the hell does that mean? He is going to plug a cable into the guy’s forehead?” The problem in my little corner of the world is a person who is absolutely clueless in a position of authority uses these phrases constantly. His favorite is “engage”; and he does not use it like Patrick Stewart.
August 10, 2016 @ 8:25 AM
Reach out, connect, engage. While clueless people use these as synonyms, they actually sound like 3 different steps to some important process.
Whenever you hear “engage” used as a synonym for “speak with” in the future, you should respond with some version of “Make it so.” (Without Patrick Stewart’s accent, of course.)
July 7, 2016 @ 1:03 PM
If one more insecure person “reaches out” to me.. ugh.. Its like nails on a chalkboard. OMG I actually flipped one day and actually said – we don’t reach out here. around here we contact people.. Oh yes I did.
June 1, 2016 @ 1:37 PM
I disagree with including “FYI” in the list. Sometimes when someone gives me information, I’m left wondering what I am expected to do with it. But if it’s tagged with “FYI,” I know that it’s for my information only and that I don’t need to do anything with it. In that way, it’s useful.
June 1, 2016 @ 1:42 PM
We agree – in written form, FYI is often useful. It’s when it’s spoken out loud that it adds no value.
June 8, 2016 @ 1:46 PM
Please add “at the end of the day”. Every clown on the planet (politicians, media, etc.) is wearing this one out.
June 26, 2016 @ 11:55 AM
“At the end of the day” +1
July 11, 2018 @ 9:25 AM
I always ask if what they are referring to was any different at the beginning of the day 🙂
June 1, 2016 @ 1:22 PM
June 26, 2016 @ 12:24 PM
Kudos to Action Item!
March 12, 2016 @ 9:57 AM
The other one I hear is “too easy” in response to me telling a subordinate what to correct on a plan. My usual response is “if it was ‘too easy’ you would have done it in the first place.”
November 25, 2015 @ 3:41 PM
Here’s one I hear a lot now, “Moving Forward..”
March 3, 2017 @ 7:00 AM
Yes! You hear it from both British and American sources
November 24, 2015 @ 5:03 PM
My boss is Korean, her English is not the best. As a crutch she uses several extremely annoying phrases, the worst of which in my opinion is ‘boil the ocean’ to describe trying to do too many things at once. I hate hearing that phrase come out of anyone’s mouth, but it’s especially bad when she says it.
August 9, 2015 @ 12:09 PM
You might want to add “the takeaway” to your list.
May 13, 2015 @ 8:45 AM
I had a boss once who due to his command on the english language could butcher old sayings. My favorite was “well I guess you’re between a rock and a creek”. Which actually that sounds quite pretty and restful. It caused me to come up with my own saying “up against a wall without a paddle”.
May 13, 2015 @ 8:47 AM
There is no way I would be able to keep from laughing if I had a boss like that! How awesome would it be to have someone butcher common sayings like that and turn them completely inside out? Thanks for sharing, DaveO!
May 13, 2015 @ 11:15 PM
I had a manager like that too. However, she knew that she was getting the phrases wrong. She didn’t do it on purpose, but enjoyed the laugh with her staff. Often she’d encourage us to “Throw our hat in the door” or “Pull ourselves up by our shoestrings.”
May 14, 2015 @ 7:23 AM
I love it! A manager who can laugh at herself (and allow others to laugh with her) more often than not makes for a great leader.
January 16, 2015 @ 11:32 AM
“Move the needle”
January 14, 2015 @ 2:07 PM
What’s wrong with using these words when the correct intention is there? It seems like a lot of people here have other issues going on than the words that their managers use on a daily basis. A good manager isn’t determined by the words or phrases he/she uses, but the action that he/she takes. The root of the problem seems to be bad managers – not bad vocabulary. Sometimes these go hand in hand.
The 25 Most Annoying Business Phrases (at Ask the Manager) | Lexicide
September 2, 2014 @ 11:40 AM
[…] Because it’s fun, because it’s a good article, and just because: http://askthemanager.com/2008/11/the-25-most-annoying-business-phrases […]
Block and tackle | Lexicide
September 2, 2014 @ 11:36 AM
[…] References: Wikipedia page for Block and Tackle Ask the Manager’s “The 25 Most Annoying Business Phrases” […]
September 2, 2014 @ 8:50 AM
I liked these examples. A fellow at work appears to have used this article as a how-to, because he drops all these silly terms endlessly. I think in some cases there is an inverse relationship in a person’s actual usefulness to how many of these terms they drop in regular conversation.
September 2, 2014 @ 8:58 AM
Spot on comment: “…there is an inverse relationship in a person’s actual usefulness to how many of these terms they drop in regular conversation.”
Since so many of these are crutches, I suspect you are correct.
February 21, 2014 @ 4:37 PM
“Blocking and tackling” doesn’t mean that the task is easy, it just means that it requires a lot of effort and not much discussion. At least that’s how I’ve heard it used.
June 2, 2015 @ 3:49 PM
I thought block and tackle referred to a system of pulleys used to gain mechanical advantage. Thus the meaning is to use your brain to get the job done.
January 17, 2018 @ 8:53 PM
Block and tackle is a fishing term when used down here in southern Texas. The term is meant as easy due to the relaxing nature attributed to fishing.
February 21, 2014 @ 8:59 AM
Brilliant article, many chuckles around the office.
Not from the US although the rhetoric above is common and often barf inducing in our workplace.
If I could raise one particularly annoying and ever increasingly over-used phrase it would be ‘ring-fence’.
Largely used to describe locking the opposition out of an opportunity, appropriate once the supply of ‘low-hanging fruit’ has been exhausted.
If I could add another, ‘It’s a case of the cart pulling the horse’ or more recently ‘It’s a cart and horse situation’.
Rocket surgery is stored and will be used when appropriate. Going forward…..
July 17, 2013 @ 3:24 PM
How about “the ____ piece” to describe a component of a plan? Every time I hear someone say “let’s address the billing piece before we move on” or “have you given any thought to what the clinical piece will look like?” I just want to shake somebody.
October 7, 2016 @ 9:09 AM
October 7, 2016 @ 9:11 AM
I liked the comment piece.
May 16, 2013 @ 3:25 PM
“At the end of the day”. At the end of WHAT day??
February 9, 2013 @ 8:36 AM
Hilarious! Certainly explains my unending frustration when trying to talk English to my American counterparts over the last 25 years (I am in Israel). I say 25 years because no matter how much I interact with Americans, the rate at which they innovate puke-provoking idioms seems to be increasing exponentially. Expressions borrowed from US-only sports such as “ball park”, “block-and-tackle” (I found this blog by googling for the latter pearl of rhetoric, having encountered it yesterday for the first time during a telephone conversation) are especially disgusting. Not to mention “reaching out” which makes my intestines contract no matter how often I encounter this.
May 16, 2013 @ 3:26 PM
I’m with ya!
July 28, 2016 @ 3:58 PM
Yes. Yeees. Intestines contracting. So very well put.
January 12, 2013 @ 5:03 PM
some wording managers should refrain from using when they think these words will actually motivate employees to do things that they have no control over..control being the operative word…micro-manage would be a better term.—QUICKLY!!—MORE WITH LESS!!–MAKE IT HAPPEN!!….hey managers,psssst…it has the opposite effect!…and that will definately happen….we dont make widgets here.
Some words we are NOT to use—NO PROBLEM—CRAP—thats only 2 of many since i work in a p.c. situation and we have had hard core training..also called head screwing on that subject. Putting new words out there like “MY PLEASURE” and “NOT USER FREINDLY” doesnt matter since most of us didnt grow up with those terms….psssssst, managers…stop admiring your college degrees on your wall..get out of your ivory tower…try watching UNDERCOVER BOSS..you may learn more than any college course or book you read on manangement….and i am begging….STOP THE WE!!! thats something that suggests you will actually wash out a trash can.
January 5, 2013 @ 7:08 PM
J.bob thank you! I thought I was alone in despising the way the term “we” is used in business. Every time I hear one of my many bosses utter the term I of course realize it means YOU, as in something I have to do. Here’s a instant message conversation between me and my boss’ boss. I guess I just felt extra annoyed this day.
>> My boss’ boss wrote <> I wrote <> She wrote <> l wrote <<
[3:25 pm] ok.
Just say WTF you mean the first time. Its easier!
December 19, 2012 @ 6:51 PM
Oops…sorry for the typo in my last comment.
I also forgot to include this gem: “That isn’t in his wheelhouse.”
Translation: “He doesn’t know how to do that” or “That’s not in his skill set”
(eek, “skill set” is almost as bad).
As for “ping them” — wtf is up with that??
December 19, 2012 @ 6:47 PM
I am reaching out to thank you for this wonderful piece!
B.S. business jargon has been with us for a while now, but it seems to be reaching new heights (or lows). Every time a co-workers says, “Can you reach out to so and so?”, I say, “No, but I can CONTACT them.” Of course, my comment is usually met with an utterly bewildered look and I am simply pegged as the office wise ass.
Alas, you left out my current favorite term: “Ask”…as in “The ASK was to deliver this by Friday.” Yes, “request” has morphed into “the ask”. “Ask” is now a noun. And, to my amazement, people utter this phrase with a completely straight face.
I don’t whether to laugh or cry when I hear this crap. Mostly, I just gag.
Please…make it stop!
May 16, 2013 @ 3:27 PM
I want to reply like that sooooooo badly!!
February 5, 2016 @ 9:29 PM
Yes, my biggest peeve. If someone comes at me with this, I tell them I can’t understand what they want and refer them to the dictionary.
August 14, 2016 @ 5:29 PM
That’s also my most disliked phrase (the ask). It sounds just idiotic to me, and I’m abhorred how widespread this usage has become. I usually respond, “you mean the request?” when I hear it in meetings. Grrrrr..
August 28, 2012 @ 6:40 PM
reach out and going forward…makes me want to barf at a staff meeting.
August 24, 2012 @ 7:09 PM
The word “we”…it is used way to much and in the wrong context because a white collar worker is asking/demanding/prompting a blue collar worker to do a certain task that they will not/cannot/would not dirty themselves/would not lower themselves to do…. How about putting the question to the responsable person/persons without “we”–substitute with “you”. because that is “who” will do the task. i.e. question—Can we remove this garbage from public view and put it in the dumpster because we dont want the public to see and smell a garbage can? Can “we” remove the dead deer off of the trail because the public will see and smell it?…and the best for last…Can “we” scrape that bird crap off of the porch?? it will appear as if this is a hazzard to the children. The show now on t.v. PARKS AND RECREATION has nothing in their writing until they contact me…i could come up with writing material for all four seasons…got carried away there but…WE IS USED TOOOOOOO MUCH…FOR THE WRONG REASONS…BY THE WRONG PEOPLE!!
Me..We..French for yes…naaahhhh thats OUI!!..or not
January 17, 2018 @ 9:00 PM
I prefer to reply by asking if they have a mouse in their pocket. The question typically stumps them long enough for me to escape without giving a proper response to an improperly asked question.
August 16, 2012 @ 10:00 AM
Ping! Ping!! We must ping people.. I mean really! Is that the same as “reaching out,” or is it different?
August 15, 2012 @ 6:01 PM
stop with the phony Manager know it all attitude by trying to use words that a technician uses so i will be awed at your understanding of my job. for instance when i am cahngeing out a dull chain saw chain….dont ask if the blade is dull and and if the diesel fuel mix was right or did the rake make it stop. #1—its a chain not a blade–#2—no diesel fuel in any chain saw–#3 it is a brake that stops the chain and not a rake…..please go back to your ivory tower and leave me to do my job!!! micro manage the guy with the back hoe…and have a look in the hole he just dug..be carefull not get to close…ohhhhh noooo i missed my mandatory break 4 miles away…see ya…i think i hear someone calling for help…naaaahhhh…just the back hoe filling in a hazzardous substance.
July 17, 2012 @ 9:18 AM
What about :
“Work smarter not harder”….
First there is a limit to how smartness reduces hardness and it makes the recipient sound like an idiot. It is also condescending.
March 6, 2012 @ 10:04 PM
HAHA! Love all the comments on the crappy phrases businesses use. I didn’t actually know that people used “30,000 foot view” because I’d never heard it until someone sent it to me in an email. Don’t really like that phrase, it just seems like I’ll never be able to give someone a 30,000 foot view.
February 29, 2012 @ 7:48 PM
Let’s not forget “just give me a few bullet points.” Typically said by a clueless senior manager when referring to a multi-year, multi-million dollar project. Sure! I’ll give you some bullets.
February 6, 2012 @ 4:45 PM
I’d like to add “Mission Critical” to the list though.
February 1, 2012 @ 6:59 AM
fire fighting has to be my favorite, running around like a blue arse fly trying do desktop suport with no training in anything since NT4
pi$$ing in the wind anyone
February 1, 2012 @ 6:52 AM
Awesome Website – generating plenty of office laughs and finger pointing.
Missed some crackers though;
– Spinning the Plates (reference to multi tasking )
– Stake in the Ground ( seems to have multiple meanings )
– on the radar ( lol )
and words of the month are : Expedite and Quantify (one of those words will be dropped into every sentence)
September 28, 2011 @ 4:16 PM
OH, you so named the worst with “reaching out” – I, too, want to reach out and choke the living beans out of the person saying that!!
Plus I hate hearing “no problem” with I say thank you. (hmmmm, I wonder if not leaving a tip is a PROBLEM for you) What happened to “You’re welcome??
August 31, 2011 @ 11:40 AM
You don’t know, what you don’t know
January 25, 2023 @ 10:23 PM
My boss uses this phrase all the time and she says it’s “what keeps her up at night.” No thanks, that’s a little too paranoid for me.
August 25, 2011 @ 5:47 PM
I think the one that makes me start looking for blunt objects is “at the end of the day”. I think the next person who says this to me will reach the “end of their life”.
And you totally nailed it with “reach out”!
February 21, 2012 @ 9:58 PM
That’s funny man.blunt object.I totally agree.horribly mindless phrase.that chick on tv judge pirro uses it incessantly
January 25, 2011 @ 3:40 PM
On the flip side, I’d love to pursue a conversation about phrases we’d like to see used MORE often in business. Believe me I get just as annoyed by some of these phrases, but couldn’t we all use a little more:
— Go get ’em tiger! (maybe followed by a little growl?)
— On the fritz
— What the heck?!
— Are you kidding me!?
— Life is Good (I realize this one is trademarked, but used verbally we should be ok, right?)
— You fly, I’ll buy (I actually used this recently and my colleague had no idea what I meant…I then realized it was a throwback to my old college days when I’d try to persuade someone to go get me Taco Bell. So I really think it needs to work its way up to Corporate America.)
I’m sure there are more, like this one: Peace out.
January 14, 2010 @ 6:44 PM
not to forget… “going forward” I can’t stand it!
In marketing you need to practice like you play | B2B Marketing Blog
September 1, 2009 @ 10:13 AM
[…] by practicing like you play within your own office. I found this terrific blog post to help you get started with words and phrases that should be banned from the workplace. (Read the […]
July 14, 2009 @ 3:06 PM
I agree that the word synergy is overused, but your definition here is inaccurate. Synergy isn’t just collaboration, its the gaining of efficiencies and economies of scale/scope through that collaboration. Not all collaborations involve synergy and the words are not interchangeable.
March 19, 2009 @ 6:49 PM
I like ‘chasing shiny objects.’ at least those people know what they are doing
February 26, 2009 @ 5:42 PM
Oclaf… When the others start to catch on, change your saying to “brain science.” After that, you may want to mix in various percentages that everyone should give: “Let’s all give 107%.”
February 26, 2009 @ 5:36 PM
i use the term “rocket surgery”, it catches people off guard, makes them think your wierd when in actuality i am making light of things, too many people get too serious…
February 26, 2009 @ 5:35 PM
Ash… Nice call, I couldn’t agree more. In addition to the disingenuous “got any big plans for the weekend” that you hear from mindless coworkers; I’ve also heard “what keeps you up at night” from prospective vendors who have no skills in human interaction, but like to repeat what they once read in a sales training book.
Your “stay out of trouble” is my “be good.” Be good? What in the world do they mean by this? The person who commands “be good” before a weekend or a trip really means “make sure you put the lid back on the mayonnaise jar.”
February 26, 2009 @ 2:49 AM
You know, it doesn’t really fit into the same list (more of an office banter list) but I really hate the generic response of “fair enough” to seemingly anything anyone might say at anytime. I hate the fact that it’s used so much that I end up replying to people in conversations I’m less than half-vested in using it because I don’t care.
I’m also vetoing the “funny” (translation: asinine, overused, obnoxious…) weekend farewell that is “Stay out of trouble” and all variations. Nobody in the cube farm could locate trouble if they were in an underage whore house.
Lastly, the late Friday question (though I’ve heard it as early as Tuesday) posited to you by someone you barely know: “Got any big plans for the weekend?” If I weren’t skinny as a rail but instead part of the 50+% of overweight people in this country, I would do my best to accuse the offender of using sly fat comments. HR would probably bring their A-game to get that wording out of there.
I could go on but I think that fulfills by hate quota for the evening.
November 26, 2008 @ 10:42 PM
Ugh! Ours ears bleed when we hear those two… Nice call, Chaz.
October 25, 2012 @ 2:51 PM
In my darkest moments, I’m fond of mixing the two – ie. ‘It’s not rocket surgery.”
October 25, 2012 @ 5:06 PM
This way you get the added benefit of confusing the non-humorous.
November 26, 2008 @ 5:14 PM
“It’s not brain surgery.”
This is the most annoying saying at my work, although “it’s not rocket science” is a close second.
November 21, 2008 @ 3:44 PM
Great catch, George. Yes, we HATE those sayings, as well. They probably could have cracked our Top 25 if there were intuitive replacement phrases we could suggest.
The fact is that some people do chase shiny objects and some people do continually try to reinvent the wheel.
George in Ohio
November 21, 2008 @ 3:38 PM
What about “Chase Shiny Objects” and “Reinvent The Wheel?” I hate hearing people in business use those phrases.
November 10, 2008 @ 9:55 AM
Andy is 100% right… we missed a bunch. As we wrote in the article, the hardest part was narrowing the list to just 25. “It is what it is” is awful and we cringe when we hear it (did Yogi Berra say it?). “It is what it is” was among about 200 phrases on our cut list, as were the following:
elephant in the room
eat your own dog food
________ space (instead of just saying “industry,” like “ecommerce space”)
bandwidth (to describe someone’s ability to handle additional tasks)
the 80-20 rule
drop the ball
January 29, 2023 @ 4:46 PM
” drill down” “mine down” “apples to oranges” “best practice” “culture of excellence” “dog and pony show” “level up” “address the elephant in the room” “scratching the surface” “circle of trust” “sacrificial lamb” “riding the coattails” “let’s call a monkey a monkey” “manage the monkey” “somebody’s gotta shoot the monkey” “take the safety” “punt the ball” “let’s crowd solve” “wrangle in the numbers” “the lion’s share”
November 10, 2008 @ 12:57 AM
You forgot one… “It is what it is.”