I don’t know about you but I just love a bit of blue-sky thinking and then running it up the flagpole before reaching out and touching base with my clients to see if it floats their boat. Apologies for the sarcasm.
However, we’ve all experienced this jargon in work. Sat in your weekly team meeting and your leader tells you that you’ve got to focus on “low-hanging fruit”. Or receiving an email from the CEO who states, “To remain competitive, we’ve got to think outside the box.” That meeting with a client, where they use a phrase that irritates or annoys. The director, speaking at the staff conference who speaks in clichés.
Often these phrases or business jargon, cause more damage than good. We switch off from the real focus of the message being communicated, instead, trying to spot the next phrase the person uses, or indeed dismissing what they say completely.
A survey by Institute of Leadership & Management, in the UK, revealed that these phrases are used in almost two thirds (64%) of offices, with nearly a quarter (23%) considering it to be a pointless irritation. “Thinking outside the box” (57%), “going forward” (55%) and “let’s touch base” (39%) were identified as the top three most overused pieces of jargon.
I’ve experienced this situation on many times, when facilitating team development workshops or speaking at conference, when someone has uttered one of these phrases. You just need to look at the expressions on other people’s faces around you to see the irritation caused. I can guarantee that you won’t be alone.
Sometimes, it is not just the words or phrase used, it is also the meaning behind them. I once worked with a strongly-opinionated leader who regularly used the phrase, “In my opinion, I think we should do…” The meaning behind it was “this is what I want to happen.”
They were such a strong character, that many staff did not challenge them. They regularly used this phrase, until one day, someone did challenge them and everyone found out that the leader had no substantive evidence to back up their opinion. Whenever it was uttered in the future, staff were sceptical and dismissive about what the leader said and their intention. Ultimately, the leader lost the respect of a large amount of their staff.
Just imagine if these phrases were used at home with your family or partners!! “I think we should take our holiday discussions offline and initially reach out and touch base with our friends to do some blue sky thinking about our next holiday destination.”
So a plea to all those who use such phrases,
PLEASE JUST SAY IT HOW IT IS
Below are a few of my favourite irritating phrases submitted by some of my connections on LinkedIn:
Phrase Actual Meaning
At the end of the day This is the situation we are faced with
We need to deep dive Let’s have some more detail
Cross-stovepipe thinking Connecting thoughts together
With all due respect I disagree with what you’ve said
Reach out to Get in contact with
Let’s take this offline Can we discuss this later?
Let’s square the circle Try to do what is thought impossible
Are we all signing from the same hymn sheet Do we all agree?
Thank you to all those people who responded to my initial question on LinkedIn and who prompted me to write this article.
So what is the phrase that irritate you the most, and importantly, what should people be saying instead? I’d love to hear yours, so please do leave a comment below.
Wishing you continued happiness and success in both work and life.
Yours behaviourally, Nick
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