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15 business buzzwords that you should stop saying (and what to say instead)

Posted by Escalon

June 17, 2021    |     6-minute read (1216 words)

The business world is full of fancy terms and industry lingo. Many of the buzzwords and phrases become overused and cliche. Avoiding buzzwords can help boost your professional presence. Sometimes, simple language is the best alternative. Here are 15 of the most annoying business buzzwords and phrases you should avoid, and what to say instead. 

1. Piggyback

“To piggyback off what Joan was saying...”

This word is used when someone wants to add to another person’s ideas. Unfortunately, this phrase is used far too often. Instead, simply acknowledging the other person’s thoughts on the matter and adding your own perspective without any buzzwords can be effective. 

2. Ping

“Ping me when you are out of the meeting.” 

Ping was once a popular term to represent the sending of short messages in the form of instant messages or texts. This generalized term is no longer considered trendy. If you don’t want to date yourself, consider just asking your coworker to let you know when they are available. 

3. Return to work

“I can’t wait to see the team in person when we return to work!”

With the rise of COVID-19, many workers were shifted to a remote working arrangement. As the world gets the pandemic under control, companies will begin reopening offices around the world. The term “return to work” can be offensive to employees as it implies that they have just been sitting at home doing nothing. Instead, use the term “return to the office”. 

4. Take this offline

“Tom, let’s take this discussion offline.” 

There is always that one person who derails the meeting by bringing up items that are not a part of the current discussion. When this happens, you have likely heard someone ask that those topics be “taken offline”. This is a passive way to let the person know that they are off topic. Unfortunately, this also rewards them by suggesting that what they brought up deserves an entirely separate discussion. While this may be the case, it’s better to remind them of the purpose of the meeting or to politely let them know that the group is getting off track. 

5. Holistic

“Our team plans to approach the workflow holistically.”

The term holistic comes from the medical field and means comprehensive, universal, or balanced. While this word has crept its way into the business world, it’s better to simply say that the “team will implement a comprehensive workflow.”

6. Bandwidth

“Do you have the bandwidth to take on this new project?”

Bandwidth is an overused term to express how much work a person is willing and capable of handling. As they take on more and more work, their bandwidth decreases. There are many types of bandwidth including working hours, intellectual ability and physical energy. To avoid confusion, be specific with your request. Ask if they have the time in their schedule to handle the request or the energy to support the project. 

7. Best-in-class or world class

“Our product is best-in-class…” 

Businesses want to bring the best service possible to their clients. It’s understandable, but very few businesses or products become the next Apple or Tesla. While it’s great to strive for perfection, this is usually an unreasonable standard. Most of the time when you hear this phrase, it simply isn’t true. It’s been overused and has lost its power. Instead, focus on which features and aspects of your product or service help solve the client’s specific need or challenge. 

8. Wheelhouse

“I would like to take on that task, but it’s not in my wheelhouse.”

Wheelhouse has become a term that indicates the skillset of an individual. Unfortunately, it’s been long used for people looking for an excuse not to take on a certain request or task. By saying something isn’t in your wheelhouse, you could imply that you are too good to work on it. Instead, let the other person know specifically why you can’t take on that task. For example, “John might be a better fit for this request since he is our in-house Excel expert.”

9. Offload 

“I need to offload some of these responsibilities to the rest of the team.”

When you are overwhelmed and need to get some support, you might be tempted to request to “offload” some things onto other members of your team. This word’s connotation can give the impression that you are looking to dump your work on others. Instead, ask your boss to help you reprioritize your responsibilities or if they can delegate items to other members of the team. 

10. Circle back

“Let’s circle back on this topic next week when you are back from vacation.”

Circle back indicates to another person that you want to continue or finish the discussion at another time. Instead of using this annoying buzzword, just say that you want to follow up with them later on the topic or want to continue the conversation when you have more time. 

11. Hard stop

“I have a hard stop at 3 p.m.”

In the business world, it’s extremely common to have back-to-back meetings or other obligations. Telling people that you have a hard stop indicates that you must leave a meeting at a certain time in order to not be late for your next appointment. Instead, encourage the group to stay on topic and finish the meeting on time. If the meeting is going to run over, let everyone know that you have to leave but would be happy to continue the discussion at a later time. 

12. Pivot

“We’re going to need to pivot and focus on other priorities.”

This term is often used to encourage flexibility and adaptability. Unfortunately, the word itself is overused. Instead, just use clear language that you intend for the group to try a new approach or go in a different direction. 

13. Low-hanging fruit

“Let’s focus on the low-hanging fruit first…”

Low-hanging fruit is a term for tasks that can be completed easily to demonstrate quick progress. While this is a great strategy when approaching a large project or initiative, the buzzword is outdated. Instead, tell the team to focus on the tasks that have the most impact with the least amount of effort. 

14. Synergy

“There is a lot of synergy between these two organizations.”

The word synergy has been around for a long time. Its usage peaked around 2009 and has declined in recent years. The term was once used to describe how well two groups worked together. Replace the word synergy with collaboration, communication or any other word that specifically describes the relationship. 

15. New normal

“We’re going to review some guidelines that apply to our new normal.”

The world is constantly changing. Major disruptions in business were caused by the pandemic, prompting companies to refer to this as the “new normal”. Unfortunately, people have grown tired of this phrase. First, the phrase is an oxymoron. It also implies that the expectation in business is to be stagnant and unchanging. Language should be more around adaptability which is a key ingredient to a successful business. 

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