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Let’s not circle back on that: These 10 corporate buzzwords are the most hated in America

October 24, 2022, 5:17 PM UTC
Business jargon is likely to irritate your coworkers.
SDI Productions—Getty Images

“I’m just circling back to discuss how culture has changed within this new normal we’re in, hoping we can move the needle on this and think outside of the box.” 

If that line of corporate-speak just raised your blood pressure slightly or made you want to huck a chair like J.K. Simmons in Whiplash, you’re not alone. Business jargon (along with small talk about the weather) is a staple of office discourse. But unlike talking about how it’s abnormally chilly out, no one really likes chatting in overused corporate phrases. 

More than one in five workers dislikes corporate buzzwords, according to online learning platform Preply’s survey of more than 1,500 Americans. Yet these phrases remain alive and well, with two in five respondents saying they hear these buzzwords at least once a day and seven in 10 admitting they use business jargon themselves. 

Below are the top 10 annoying phrases most hated among your coworkers:

  1. New normal
  2. Culture (e.g., “company culture”)
  3. Circle back
  4. Boots on the ground
  5. Give 110%
  6. Low-hanging fruit
  7. Win-win
  8. Move the needle
  9. Growth hacking
  10. Think outside the box

Dropping a casual “boots on the ground” during a conversation might not make you the most popular coworker, but it could lend an air of professionalism. Despite disliking buzzwords, three-fourths of respondents said that using these phrases can make someone sound more professional. 

Preply attributes the top ranking of “new normal” to its association with the pandemic. And annoyance over the use of “culture” could be because some managers have used the need for an upbeat and fun company culture as a reason to implement a return to the office. But our notions of what culture really is and how we can bond with colleagues has changed since employees began work remotely. 

Spending two years working from home has fostered a sense of casualness as we return to the office—such as the newfound ability to wear jeans to work—that clashes more with formal phrases like “growth hacking.” As people start to prioritize work-life balance more and resist hustle culture, these buzzwords can be a jarring reminder of 2010s workplace attitudes that heralded professionalism above everything else.

But not all buzzwords are annoying. Preply respondents favored terms like “at the end of the day,” “debrief,” and even “sweep the floor.”

And buzzwords aren’t just a deterrent for employees; they can also be red flags for candidates. One in five respondents considered jargon in a job description to be a warning sign, with most noting that the language factored in their decision to apply or not. The main offenders for candidates were overly optimistic words that suggested an undercurrent of a more tense work environment, such as “rockstar,” “wear many hats,” and “thick skin.”

As we reach a new understanding (or “new normal”) regarding work, the need for new buzzwords has followed suit.

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