Business cliches that should be banished

Inc. Magazine

Every generation gets its own workplace cliches.

For our grandparents and parents, it was “run it up the flagpole” or “behind the eight ball” or “think outside the box.” In the last few years, an entire new lexicon of hackneyed phrases has invaded the business world.

They all began as something fresh and, possibly, had some value at one time, but they were adapted and copied and spread around until they became so ubiquitous as to be meaningless.

So, I asked business leaders and entrepreneurs for the ones that make them cringe the most and got more than 100 great examples. Here are 15 of the worst offenders.

1. Thought leader

“I don’t know any high-level person anywhere who isn’t described as a thought leader. Just having thoughts doesn’t make you a thought leader.”

—Amanda Ponzar, chief marketing officer at Community Health Charities

2. Hustle

“People use this term to talk about their stepped-up game or their freelance work (side hustle). Why can’t they just say that?”

—Jeffrey Soto, managing content editor, Katie Wagner Social Media

3. Come to Jesus

“‘We need to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with him.’ Really? It's that intense?”

—Chris White, CEO of Shinesty

4. Tribes

“I get it. Seth Godin’s got this book called ‘Tribes.’ And all of his books are amazing. But now, like any word that turns into jargon, it’s started to lose its meaning.”

—Rachel Jordan, founder of 929 Marketing

5. Take it offline

“It means, 'Let’s talk about this after.' I think people should just say that!”

—RaShea Drake, B2B Analyst, Verizon Business

6. Disrupt

“I’m from Africa, and every now and then you get a tech website reporting on how a new startup is ‘disrupting’ a particular industry in Africa. Funny thing is, most of these companies just want to keep raising rounds until their companies are no more.”

—Daniel Bamigboye, Firebrick Digital

7. Rock star

“Using ‘rock star’ to describe a tech professional drives me crazy. Are sunglasses mandatory? Do they throw their PC through the window before signing autographs?”

—Richard Howe, UX Designer, Colour Rich

8. Ninja

“‘He/she is a rock star-ninja (fill in the blank).’ I don’t want to hire rock stars. They are egotistical and spoiled. As far as ninjas, I am not looking for silent employees. I want great communicators.”

—Sarah Johnson, public relations specialist, Fit Small Business

9. Out of pocket

“People use it to mean the person is unavailable or difficult to reach. But it doesn't mean that. It’s about expenses you have to pay yourself.”

—Gary Romano, president and CEO, Civitas Strategies

10. Low-hanging fruit

“I personally hate this term. It undervalues the effort behind a task and makes whoever is working on it not give their best. Every job deserves your best effort.”

—Jay Labelle, owner of The Cover Guy

11. Swim lane

“I personally dislike the concept of the ‘swim lane.’ It’s reductive, and undermines a sense of shared responsibility within the organization. Nothing interesting would ever happen if everyone just stuck to their lanes.”

—Erin Fisher, Dotted Line Communications

12. Best in class

“The marketing phrase that companies use that drives me the most crazy is best in class. As soon as I hear it, I assume the exact opposite.”

—Leslie Osman, vice president of marketing and communication at Park Bank

13. Girl Boss

“I love that fellow females are excited about their power in the workplace, but enough with the #GirlBoss already — we don’t hear men going around saying they’re a Boy Boss now, do we?”

—Amanda Duff, founder, Duff PR

14. Regroup

“‘Let's regroup’; nobody wants to deal with this right now, so let’s delay the pain and hope it goes away.”

—Brooke Niemiec, chief marketing officer, Elicit

15. Change agent

“I certainly don’t mind people using this expression when they’re talking about Martin Luther King Jr., but when it’s consistently applied to eighth-tier talents who once gave a TED Talk, it’s annoying.”

—Shlomo Z. Bregman, founder, Bregman Success

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad