The Douchey-est Buzzwords in Business Today

(originally appeared on my blog ITSolopreneurs.com)

This week I launch another multi-part series. This time, it’s about lingo…Lingo that is powerful in persuading your audience to your way of thinking. Lingo that is trendy, douchey, and definitely will not stand the test of time. In another 50 years, it is possible that we will not hear of many of these phrases. In classic Cat style, we start with the silly stuff.

Simplicity

Photo Credit: https://speckyboy.com/2016/01/26/design-principles-of-simplicity/

I always thought it was just me, but whenever I was in a meeting, or talking to a bunch of people in a professional setting, all these fancy schmancy phrases seem to pop up. I remember thinking to myself, is it just me? or are they using unnecessarily big words to say something really simple? I have a simple brain. For me to understand something, I need to simplify things in order to grasp them. I just don’t understand why people wouldn’t just come out and communicate the exact message in the most direct form. Perhaps they think it makes them sound smart. Most of the time, it just makes them sound like a smart-ass.

Photo Credit: https://sheryl.es/50-inspirational-quotes-on-leadership/

If you have ever worked even a little in the business world, you’d have likely come across some pretty douchey phrases that people use day in, day out. There is not even one iota of thought as to whether or not people around them really know what they mean. Sometimes I question if they even know what they’re saying. So I went ahead and poked around the net to see if anyone else had the same perspective as I did. Turns out, I was onto something. Forbes.com had a lovely article on this a while back. BusinessInsider came out with a handy infographic illustrating all the buzzwords that annoy your co-workers, among others. Charged with my newfound support from two of the most respected authorities on business today, I compiled a list of my favourite douchey phrases in business today, and also what they mean. To add even more to your life, I’ve included what to say instead in an attempt to reduce the douchey-ness factor, so you don’t get punched in the face coming out of a meeting one day. You’re welcome.

The Definition of “Douchey”

Photo Credit: https://memegenerator.net/instance/64430605

Before we get into discussing douchey phases, let us first define what ‘douchey’ actually means, in case you aren’t familiar with the term. As I always strive to bring you value-add (yes, douchey phrase), I quickly researched what douchey actually means. Turns out… it is a legitimate entry in the Oxford English dictionary (the online version anyway) meaning obnoxious, or contemptible (usually referring to a man’s behaviour). A person (usually male) who exhibits reportedly douchey behaviour, is therefore known as a “douchebag.”

I also found it in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, again meaning …

Who knew. No one can say that these dictionary authorities are behind the times anymore… though I’m certain douchebags have been among us for generations.

The Caveat

I should clarify. Just because someone, anyone…you, for instance, may have used one or more of these phrases, it doesn’t necessarily mean… In fact, it would be highly unlikely that said individual is automatically a douchebag. Fortunately, the qualifications of a douchebag far exceed the occasional use of these phrases. I myself have been guilty on various occasions in using one or more of these puppies. And I am certainly not a douchebag…at least, I don’t think so.

I jest, of course. All in good fun. Why should we always be serious when we’re talking about professional development and the corporate environment? After reading this potentially life-changing prose, I dare you not to indulge in a chuckle the next time you hear any of these phrases used.

And if you’re new to the corporate environment here in North America… well, congratulations. Consider yourself now somewhat equipped with insight into how people converse at a typical corporate environment.

Right. Onwards with the festivities.

Photo Credit: http://www.ianchamberlain.net/Fun Fact: 20 years later, Gary Cole portrayed an abusive husband in Desperate Housewives.

Douchey Phrases in Business Today and What to say Instead

Hard Stop

Photo Credit: http://restoringthecore.com/hard-stops/

Not to be confused with ‘hard-on,’ which is completely inappropriate to the corporate environment. Nix out three letters and swap in the ‘n,’ and you’ll find yourself in Human Resources faster than you can say “gotta go.” … which incidentally, is exactly what this phrase means. It means you gotta go. That’s all it means! I actually have an out of office recurring appointment in my calendar, every day at 4.30pm. Hard Stop for Cat, as a reminder for me to leave the office on time in order to get home at a decent time to spend time with my baby (aka. 4 yr old) before dinner. No one can see it but me, but I’m purple once 4.30 rolls around, and no one can schedule me for meeting past this point. (By the way, Purple is the default colour code for “out of office” in Microsoft Outlook. It’s not that I’m purple because I’m frustrated or bruised.)

There is actually a real meaning for this in the investment world. According to investopedia.com, a hard stop is actually “A price level that, if reached, will trigger an order to sell an underlying security. Hard stops are set at a constant price and are inherently good until cancelled. A hard stop is used to protect the downside of holding an investment by always being active, and is only triggered once the price reaches the specified stop level.” Said in layman’s terms, ‘sell it, once it hits this (floor) price.’

Socialize It

Photo Credit: http://dict.space.4goo.net/dict?q=socialize

Whenever someone needs to ‘socialize’ it with their team, it usually refers to a document for which they need to pass it onto their team for review and feedback. I suppose ‘socializing something’ creates a pretty metaphor for soliciting feedback among a group of people. The first time I heard someone use this phrase, I thought, “oh, that’s clever.” The novelty promptly wore off by the 16,428th time the phrase was used that same month. Synonym phrases to ‘socialize it:’

  • Circulate it
  • Send it around for feedback
  • Share it
  • Release it (though, this one makes it sound like it’s a controversial piece of info that the press (or your client) would jump all over it like a bunch of hungry wolves.)

Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/457256168394515015/

Deliverable

I have a love/hate relationship with this term. It’s such an efficient word. Even when you haven’t ever heard of it the first item, you get exactly what it means right away. We could potentially create other ‘deliverable’ like words like this. For instance:

  • Giftable: (Anything that could be worthy as a good gift)
  • Gratitunities (opportunities to express gratitude)
  • Winnables (Anything where you can secure victory)

I also hate this word because it is always followed by weeks of additional tasks for me to… deliver.

Buy In

Photo Credit: https://www.ted.com/talks/david_logan_on_tribal_leadership

I like how David Logan put it: “Asking for someone’s buy-in is like saying “I have an idea. I didn’t involve you from the beginning because I didn’t value you enough to discuss it with you. But I want you to embrace as if you were in on it from the beginning… because it would make me feel very good.” Ok. Nix out the ‘feel very good’ part. It does sound douchey, though. It puts a visual of you being in a boardroom, going through a slide deck, and trying to coerce me to… buying something. It does give the impression that the targeted individual that you’re trying to get ‘buy in’ is passive and powerless. Some potentially more authentic alternatives to this could be:

  • Agreement: I like this word because it shows inclusion like we’re coming to the solution as a team.
  • Endorse it: This one I really like. When you use this in an email, it makes the person feel like a celebrity (who usually has endorsements).
  • Work Together on it: This one, I also like. If ever there was clear phrase that indicates inclusion and collaborating as a team, it’s when you ask someone to ‘work together (with you) on it.’

Push Back

Photo Credit: http://i0.wp.com/www.japancrush.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/wall-smash-04-e1352592496126.jpg?resize=570%2C570

This one gets under my skin. “I’m getting push back from the operations team with this idea.” … as if they’re just supposed to lie down on the carpet and let you shove it up… I digress. Some healthy ‘push-back’ is good. It creates discussion. It sparks validation and new perspectives of the concept you’re trying to pitch.

I know what you mean. What you mean is that you experienced resistance to your idea from a group of people. What about this instead?

  • Areas of Concern: This one came from Tom Hopkins, from whom I took sales training. Identifying a person’s area of concern not only identifies their resistance (obviously), but more importantly, what it is, and how you can work together to get around it.
  • I can’t think of a better phrase than ‘area of concern.’ Tom Hopkins is da-man!

Don’t Drink the Koolaid

Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/kool-aid-man/

Please, for the love of all things good, please I implore you, don’t use this phrase. It’s a distasteful reference to a very unfortunate event that happened in the 70’s involving the deaths of over 900 cult members by grape flavored Kool-Aid, laced with potassium cyanide. It is offensive, not to mention disrespectful to use this phrase in something as benign as pitching an idea to your audience. What you really mean is that you are referring to the acceptance of an idea without considering it. You want quite the opposite to happen. You don’t want people to accept an idea without thinking about it. What about these instead:

  • Consider the idea
  • Try this on
  • Entertain this
  • Think about it
  • Mull it over
  • Ruminate
  • Reflect on it
  • Weight out the possibilities

Working in Silo’s

Photo Credit: http://www.industryweek.com/change-management/why-do-silos-form-and-how-can-we-knock-them-down

This paints a picture in my head with a lonely desk and chair with a study lamp, inside of a dark silo, littered with grain on the floor. Poor guy. He’s going to have trouble getting out. Of course, the meaning of this is that your team isn’t talking to each other when they should be. They’re not collaborating. They are working independently, which is a good thing, but teammates need to talk. Here are some to try on instead:

  • Not collaborating
  • Not communicating
  • Working independently
  • Not talking to each other

Take it Offline

I am guilty of this one a lot. Instead of taking up everyone’s time discussing an issue that only requires two of us, let’s take it offline. This means that I want to discuss it with you privately. It sounds weird because often, the entire meeting is usually offline, by definition. That is, no one is using the internet to conduct the meeting (unless you’re actually using web conferencing software… which very well may be the case nowadays).

Moreover, when you and I get together privately ‘offline,’ we might actually need to be ‘online’ in order to resolve a particular issue or bug. How do you like them apples? Some alternatives:

  • Discuss it later
  • Let’s chat after
  • You and I can work together on this (later)

Come to Jesus Meeting

Photo Credit: http://franthony.com/in-need-of-a-come-to-jesus-moment/

This phrase I found quite humorous. I’m actually surprised to hear this one in a professional environment. If someone replaced ‘Jesus’ with any other religious leader, people would be totally up in arms about it. As it stands, it sparks a picture of the second coming of Christ, which according to the Book of Revelation, is not expected to be a quiet day. The phrase refers to a meeting, usually in the face of chaos. People have to come together, cut the bullshit and figure out how to resolve the situation. Hey, how about these instead?

  • Host a meeting of the minds
  • Let’s put our minds together
  • Let’s get together and work out a solution

Really… that’s what we want to do, isn’t it? No need to involve the Lamb of God.

Open the Kimono

Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geisha

This one, as my friend Angela likes to say, makes me want to stab myself. In the eye. With a fork. What it means is to investigate how something works. The picture it paints, however, is one of mysogny and degrades women. (Duh, who else wears kimono’s?). Oh come on, Cat. Loosen up. Yah? This should be a professional setting. What do you picture? I picture a geisha dressed in a beautiful kimono standing at the end of a Japanese dining table, with a bunch of slimy old business men with bad teeth and only their self-interest at heart. “I know! Let’s open the kimono!” She stands there powerless, with a frozen smile on her face, as these men undo her kimono and peek inside. See what I mean? That’s like saying: “let’s unzip the zipper,” or “let’s drop the pants,” or “let’s visit the proctologist…in public.” Tell me guys wouldn’t instantly clench up, if any of these were used in a meeting?

I seriously don’t see how this wouldn’t offend a Japanese person or woman in the office? If you use this phrase, I will seriously think less of you. Here are some that are much better:

  • Investigate
  • Dissect (though still not a favorite)
  • Understand of how (something) works
  • Explore the engine (or whatever it is)

Run it up the Flagpole

Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/samiably/run-it-up-a-flagpole-and-see-if-anyone-salutes-day/

I had to actually Google where this one came from… because it make absolutely no sense to me. I have to say, in Canada, I have rarely heard this phrase. According to Wikipedia, it originated from the Madmen (advertising execs of Madison Avenue in the 50’s and 60's). The full phrase is to “run it up the flagpole, and see if anyone salutes.” What it means is to test out a concept and see how well received it would be. Quite an outdated cliché. More recently, variations of this are “Throw it in the pool and see if it makes a splash,” or this one that I’ve encountered “Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks.” In any case, here are some more professional alternatives:

  • Test out the theory
  • Share it and see how well received it would be
  • Evaluate it with (the audience of your choice)

Cycles

Photo Credit: http://www.dietsinreview.com/diet_column/05/ride-your-way-into-the-record-books-on-the-last-day-of-bike-month/

Do you have cycles? Do you cycle? Do you even cycle? Do you even lift? Someone is asking if you have time to do something… cycles, alluding to the hands on the clock that cycle around. Look, mister. There are only so many ‘cycles’ that everyone has. I have the same as you. What you want to know is if I have free time. If I do, the word ‘cycle’ masks the fact that I would be idle during the day when he’s supposed to be working.

Someone is asking if you have time to do something… cycles, alluding to the hands on the clock that cycle around. Look, mister. There are only so many ‘cycles’ that everyone has. The answer is 8. I have 8 cycles before I cycle home, same as you. What you really want to know is if I have free time. If I do, the word ‘cycle’ masks the fact that I would be idle during the day when I’m supposed to be working. So the answer is no. So there.

Limited Bandwidth

Photo Credit: http://www.businesscomputingworld.co.uk/beating-bandwidth-bottlenecks-at-the-network-edge/

The opposite of having cycles, of course, is to have limited bandwidth… which has really nothing to do with time at all. I’m not telling you anything new here. Limited bandwidth refers to how fast your internet speed is. Oddly enough, if you have limited bandwidth, chances are, you would have cycles… since you have to sit there and wait for the internet to respond to your keystroke. What about these:

Run it up the Food chain

Photo Credit: http://screenrant.com/zootopia-movie-reviews/

If ever there was a phrase that evidenced that organizations are pyramid schemes in disguise, it’s this one. It refers to the fact that a supervising manager needs to review whatever you’re trying to pitch. It for some reason makes me think of Zootopia though, where predators and prey co-existed peacefully until the prey decided to plot against the predators and eliminate them. Ok, that doesn’t apply here. Here’s really why I don’t’ like this phrase. It’s immobilizing. When you have to run something up the food chain, it seems to indicate that you can’t progress without the guy above you, or the guy above him approving it. This, to me, is extremely annoying, but is also why I chose not to be part of the organizational hierarchy (at least not permanently). As an external contractor, I have less of a tendency to ‘run it up the food chain.’ You have no role in that organization. You have nothing to lose. You won’t get demoted. In fact my personal policy has always been to beg for forgiveness, instead of asking for permission. You’re way more productive that way. What to say instead to foster progress?

  • Get the opinion of various key people. It may not always be the guy with the big corner office whose opinion you need to get, but the little guy sitting in the cubicle next to him who makes everything work.
  • See what they think
  • Have (key people) weigh in

At the End of the Day / The bottom line is

Photo Credit: http://www.conlonassociates.com/Pages/StaffCounselAnalysis.aspx

Both of these frequent parts of my vernacular. It refers to the final result of whatever process is in discussion. Is it really annoying? Probably again by the 16,439 time you used it today. Here what can create a better effect, with the same meaning:

  • The ultimate goal is…
  • The final result that we want to achieve is…
  • The ideal picture is…

Peel back the Layers of the Onion

Photo Credit: http://quotesgram.com/donkey-from-shrek-quotes-onions/

This always makes me think of Shrek. Ogres are like onions. Yes, we all get it. There are many unknown variables in which your team still needs to uncover. Guess what, you might want to blanch your onion, or peeling back each layer is going to snap them right off. Also, people tend to cry when dealing with onions. What does anyone accomplish by peeling back the layers of an onion in the first place? All you get is just a smaller onion.

Culinary techniques and tears aside, this phrase is perhaps good in theory, but completely impractical. It assumes that you to investigate methodically, one layer a time. But, if you’ve ever done any sort of investigation, stuff doesn’t come to you in an organized fashion. In fact, it’s usually a mess of details that you uncover. Then some more, then some more. It’s your job to make sense of it all. It’s your job to, in fact, organize those seemingly unrelated details into nice neat layers. It’s your job to put together the layers of the onion. So a more accurate phrase would be to put together the layers of the onion. (pause for consideration) Nope. Still douchey. If you really wanted to describe the investigation, how about:

  • Explore the situation
  • Investigate it
  • Understand how it works

Open the kimono at the end of the day while peeling back the layers of the onion. Wow. That doesn’t illustrate a picture of a mental case at all.

If ever there was an impacting post, it’s this one. Even as I write this post this week, I caught myself on several occasions using some of these douchey phrases. Also, though, I quickly replaced it with a better, more professional phrase. I invite you to take the anti-douche phrase challenge! Every time you feel like using, stop! And replace it with one of these better alternatives!

Do you have any to add to the list?

(This article first appeared on my blog ITSolopreneurs.com)