(Bottleneck is an annoying business term and is just one of the 212 Most Annoying Business Phrases Managers Effuse, Confuse, and Overuse detailed in the hilarious must-have guide for every workplace: The 30,000-Pound Gorilla in the Room. Available right now on Amazon.)
To be clear, saying bottleneck is fine when you mean bottleneck. That is, when you’re referring to a step in a process where progress is obstructed.
Bottleneck, you see, correctly refers to a restricted flow, if you will. It does not, however, mean every hindrance, hurdle, or obstruction you encounter on your path to your goals.
This phrase is only annoying when used incorrectly. Unfortunately, in the business world, it’s nearly always used incorrectly.
If you’re designing workflows through multiple stations – let’s say in a factory – and one station is holding up the flow of goods because they cannot produce their portion of the project at the same speed as the other stations; you have a legitimate bottleneck.
Conversely, if you have a salesman who is underperforming; you have an underperforming salesman. Please slap yourself in the face if you find yourself describing this salesman as a bottleneck, as in, “We’d hit our number if only Tyler wasn’t such a bottleneck.”
The only bottleneck in this instance is your own neck. It’s limiting the blood flow to your brain. Add a dictionary app to your smartphone and start using it. This may help you sound less foolish in business situations.
Replacement phrases: Obstruction; Hindrance; Issue
See also: Behind the Eight Ball
The 30,000-Pound Gorilla in the Room is available on Amazon