12 of the Most Annoying Business Terms and Why You Should Stop Using Them, Now

One year ago it hit me. It was during a meeting, a regular Friday morning meeting, sipping my cold brew coffee, doodling in my Moleskine notebook, and unwelcomed by me, that slimy little creature tiptoed his way into my lexicon. Like hearing nails on a chalkboard, my face snarled in disgust. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It wouldn’t leave me alone. That phrase (#1 on this list), that irritating little beast that accosted my senses and held my face in a paralyzed expression of “ick.” A little dramatic? Maybe. But it needs to be said. Like a once indie song turned too popular from incessant playing on the radio, it’s time to lay these little creeps to sleep.

Not all business terms are bad, per se. Some idioms are just shorthand versions of a longer expression or a vivid image to “drive the point home.” However, many of these terms are created (long ago) to make managers feel creative or in control or appear clever to their colleagues. Regardless of their origin, purpose, or associated meaning, annoying business terms are so prevalent that many people say it without realizing. All, however, are absolutely cringe-worthy. We can do so much better.

So, here ya go, the most annoying business terms and why you should probably stop saying them.

1.“ Open the kimono” ick. ick. ick. ick. ick…….barf!

What it means: To openly share ideas, opinions, data, without having a set (or concealed *badumpshhh*) agenda. To be a part of the same business secret society. Why you should stop saying it: In case it needs to be said, this term is extremely barf-worthy and also makes you sound like a weirdo. It’s believed to have been conjured up somewhere in the 70s or 80s (please, send it back there) and was a figure of speech that has many different, undecipherable meanings. But I’m only thinking of the one, and you’re only thinking of the one… So just stop using it. If you aren’t convinced, read it and weep. And then close the kimono. For good.

2. “Break down the silos”

What it means: Break down barriers between departments, create an open flow of communication, tackle any obstacles in your way.

Why you should stop saying it: Silos are good. Silos store things like corn, wheat, and water. Probably not a good idea to break one down. Also, this doesn’t make too much sense when discussing people. Because a silo full of people makes me feel uncomfortable. Like opening the kimono.

3. “Move the needle”

What it means: Make improvement, show a change in progress.

Why you should stop saying it: Unless you’re an odometer, a phlebotomist, or a tattoo artist, no utterings of “needles” need to occur. How about saying, make positive progress.

4. “Tee it up”

What it means:You planned perfectly and set something up for someone else so it’s ready to be executed or whacked.

Why you should stop saying it: Haha. This one makes me think of something large balancing on something very, very small. Like a melon on a push pin. Precarious. Also, isn’t the easiest part in golf putting the ball on the tee? Unless you’re playing golf, can we please just say “organize the meeting for next week?”

5. “Low hanging fruit”

What it means: The easier, more achievable things done and scratched off your to-do list.

Why you should stop saying it: Disclaimer: I’m guilty of using this one frequently. But I’m stopping, because the more that I hear it, I cringe. Sorry if I ever made you cringe. Going after “low-hanging fruit” comes off as taking the easy way out. Unless of course you’re going after the high-hanging fruit next.

6. “Take the pulse”

What it means: Get a feel for a situation, check in on the progress.

Why you should stop saying it: First, this makes a project sound so sterile and hospital-like. Is it alive? Could it ever not have a pulse? I shudder. Let’s just say, checking in on what’s going on.

7. “Think outside the box”

What it means: Be creative, do something different and original.

Why you should stop saying it: This phrase is antithetical to what you’re promoting. If you want to think outside of the box, get out from the one you’re hiding in. Forget any boxes, just think.

8. “Thought leadership”

What it means: You are a leader in the space, a go-to visionary that people hold to high esteem and a trusted source of information.

Why you should stop saying it: Hello, princess of pretentiousness. Saying this comes off like, “Poof. I have a thought in my head and now I’m the leader in thoughts.” Is it just a bunch of little thought bubbles running around trying to rule each other’s thought leadership kingdoms?

9. “Circle back”

What it means: Reconnect about a certain project and follow-up.

Why you should stop saying it: Because you can say “let’s talk about this again next week.” Unless you like feeling dizzy, going around and around and around in a circle.

10. “One throat to choke”

What it means: One direct point of contact who will be available in case something goes wrong.

Why you should stop saying it: Torturous and evil. Unless you’re a villain in a Disney movie, this term evokes more fear than responsibility. Instead say, one person in charge.

11. “Make hay”

What it means: Being productive / successful in a really short period of time.

Why you should stop saying it: Because no one knows what it means. Just say you got a lot done today!

12. “Take that offline”

What it means: Something discussed privately, or discussed with people that are directly involved.

Why you should stop saying it: Saying this in a group setting makes the other people not included in the “offline convo” feel like they’re not part of the secret circle. You can’t sit with us. Or, that there is some super secret stuff going down. Why not say, we can talk about it more after this call.

Besides sounding silly and making your colleagues groan and secretly roll their eyes, business jargon obscures meaning. It conceals depth and thoughtfulness. It masks your true intention. It also adds ten years of age and removes ten years of credibility. Don’t believe me? Read Who Touched Base in My Thought Shower and stop drinking the Kool-Aid, you ninja rockstar.


Originally published at www.waterfall.com on April 6, 2015.