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Really annoying management speak

For my sins, I used to work in advertising, which is an industry at the cutting edge of meaningless management speak. The worst I recalled was an overseas colleague sending me an email, titled; “Read, analyse and boomerang”. His only possible mitigation is that he was based in Australia. Needless to say his request was ignored for weeks.

Advertising is not the only industry at fault; it seems pointless management speak has permeated offices across all industries and staff are being driven insane by this meaningless jabbering gibberish.  

Employees are seething on a daily basis at phrases like, “Blue sky thinking”, “game changer” and “step up to the plate”.

SPANA, an animal charity, polled 2,000 office workers, of whom seven out of ten said they mentally switched off when their boss says things like; “thinking outside the box”, “it’s on my radar”, or “strategic staircase”. Four out of ten admitted they didn’t actually understand what their boss was talking about.

Despite hating phrases like; “low hanging fruit”, “a thought shower”, or “helicopter view”. Despite this, however, 15% of emplyees admitted to using phrases like; “it’s not rocket science”, or “run this up the flagpole”. Jeremy Hulme, chief executive of SPANA, said: “We conducted this tongue-in-cheek survey to find out what bothers British workers and it’s clear that office jargon is a source of annoyance and confusion in workplaces up and down the country.

The study shows a quarter of staff have been guilty of trying to weave as many office-speak phrases into a business meeting as possible, just to pass the time. Which means that in offices up and down the country workers are shouting out rubbish such as ‘cracking the whip’, ‘win win’ and ‘no brainer’. Just under a third of people admit they’ve had to look up the meaning of certain phrases used by another colleague following a conversation with them.

Common jargon includes ‘hot desking’ which means sharing desks with other colleagues, ‘action that’ which means put into practice and ‘look under the bonnet’ which essentially requires an analysis of the situation. Seven in 10 people believe those who use ‘office lingo’ are just trying to be something they’re not, and 74 per cent consider this type of talk in the workplace to be a pointless irritation.

A quarter of workers feel ashamed if they catch themselves using phrasing such as ‘close of play’, ‘bring to the table’ or ‘hit the ground running’.

While a fifth of workers say meaningless lingo such as ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ and ‘dot the i’s and cross the t’s’ makes them enjoy their jobs less.

The most annoying phrases, according to the survey are:
Blue sky thinking – empty thinking without influence
Think outside the box – to think creatively
Touch base offline – lets meet and talk
Close of play – end of the day
Going forward – look ahead
No brainer – so obvious
Action that – put into practice
Drill down – investigate thoroughly
Thought shower – brainstorm
Hot desking – sharing several desks with colleagues
Heads up – notification
It’s on my radar – I’m considering it
Joined up thinking – thinking about all the facts
Bring to the table – contribution to the group
Punch a puppy – do something detestable but good for the business
Run this up the flagpole – try it out
Cracking the whip – use your authority to make someone work better
Moving the goalposts – change criteria
EOP – end of play
Game changer – fundamental shift
Hit the ground running – start work quickly
Ping – get back to
Low hanging fruit – easy win business
Singing from the same hymn sheet – all on the same page
Strategic staircase – business plan
Park something – hold an idea
Benchmark – point of reference
COB – close of business
Reach out – contact
Re-inventing the wheel – steal the idea from someone else
Best practice – most effective way
Al Desko – lunch at the desk
Backburner – de-prioritise
Pick it up and run with it – to move ahead with an idea
Play hardball – act forcefully
This idea has legs – good idea
Synergy – two things work together
I’m swamped – busy
It’s a win / win – good for both sides
Look under the bonnet – analyse the situation
Quick and dirty – quick solution
Peel the onion – examine the problem
Out of the loop – not involved in the decision
Wow factor – amazing
Helicopter view – broad view of the business
Elevator pitch – brief presentation


It is difficult to know why people do not understand these (almost) meaningless phrases, but it is incomprehensible as to why anyone would want to use them and look like a complete empty-headed fool.

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