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Coaxing “Outside the Box” Back In: The Worst Corporate Jargon Offenders

Hey!  It’s mission-critical that we circle back on this very important matter of corporate jargon in the workplace. Let’s focus on the low-hanging fruit with a small group first and then loop everyone in. Being proactive about our learnings will really incentivize the group to focus on the most critical action items and value-add for maximum impact. Let’s start high level, drill down from there, and circle back after lunch to figure out next steps.

Wait, what? Annoying, right? If you’re anything like me, corporate jargon makes your skin crawl — but in today’s workplace, it’s sometimes hard to get away from it. We’ve likely all been guilty of at least one of the business “buzzwords” below.

Corporate jargon cloud


“Outside the box” is the most popular—or unpopular, word depending on your view. The next-worst offenders are:

  • Outside the box (31 percent)
  • Low-hanging fruit (24 percent)
  • Synergy (23 percent)
  • Loop me in (22 percent)
  • Best of breed (19 percent)
  • Incentivize (19 percent)
  • Mission-critical (19 percent)
  • Bring to the table (18 percent)
  • Value-add (17 percent)
  • Elevator pitch (16 percent)
  • Actionable items (15 percent)
  • Proactive (15 percent)
  • Circle back (13 percent)
  • Bandwidth (13 percent)
  • High level (10 percent)
  • Learnings (9 percent)
  • Next steps (6 percent)

Navigating workplace issues can be tricky enough without throwing flowery, cliché (or just plain made up) vocabulary words in each other’s faces. It only takes one brave person to turn “outside the box” into “creatively” or “let’s circle back” to “I’ll call you” — and suddenly, we can begin to peel back the layers of complexity and really talk honestly to each other.

Grasping for an original thought or non-business-speak term that describes what we want to achieve can sometimes be difficult, but it also makes it easier for others (inside or outside our workplaces) to understand us. It brings a fresh perspective to the same old “strategy planning session.” And it can make tasks easier, not just for employees who have been with the company for some time (and have deciphered the internal lingo), but for new employees, for whom clarity and simplicity is essential while getting used to a new role. Let’s stop wasting each other’s time and dumbing each other down with meaningless buzzwords — and start saying what we really mean.

Corporate Jargon: Breaking down the buzzwords

Here are a few examples of buzzword-worthy statements — each followed by an example of a simplified version. Dig around in your own emails — I’ll bet you have some examples to work with too. Sometimes, simpler words actually give us room to add more context around a situation.

Jargon: “It’s mission-critical that we do this.”
Instead, say: It’s important that our company do this to reach our Q4 sales goals.”

Jargon: “Let’s circle back in a couple of weeks.”
Instead, say: “Let’s talk again on Dec. 18. I will send you a calendar invite.”

Jargon: “Be sure to loop me in.”
Instead, say: “Please include me in future conversations about this.”

Jargon: “What does she bring to the table?”
Instead, say: “What specific qualifications would she bring to the position that other candidates are lacking?”

Jargon: “The social media element of this project will be a compelling value-add for the client.”
Instead, say:
“By helping our client build relationships on sites like Twitter and Facebook, we can add more value to this project and help them meet their social media goals.”

Jargon: “How do we incentivize our employees to be more productive?”
Instead, say: “What can we do to make employees excited about coming to work again?”

 Jargon: “Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit.”
Instead, say: “What are the easiest goals for us to reach right now? Let’s focus on those first.”


What are your biggest corporate jargon pet peeves — or which are you most guilty of overusing?

Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.

What corporate jargon would you like to eliminate?

"We are now hiring but we have no jobs". Actually have recruiters telling me this in emails.

Recruiting Animal
Recruiting Animal

Some common phrases are disgusting I agree. But some aren't so bad.

Yeah, I kind of like loop me in. I've never heard it b4.


There are so many.

Low-Hanging fruit annoys me - it ALWAYS makes me think of, well, testicles. Once that image is in your brain - its just stuck - so, sorry!

I've been going through the most egregious alphabetically on my site: It's ridiculously fun.

Amy Chulik
Amy Chulik

Whoa, you've really never heard "loop me in"? You're right -- definitely not one of the worst ones (and I still catch myself using it). Leverage is one of my personal "worst-of" words... I'm actually surprised it didn't make the cut.

Amy Chulik
Amy Chulik

Ha -- yikes! I love the way you're dissecting business buzzwords on your site -- very entertaining! Thanks for sharing.


 @animal  @Amy Nice! I love that you included "leverage" -- one of my own least faves.


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