When did getting in touch with someone become “pinging” them? And when did we stop following up and start “circling back?”
Today’s business environment is saturated with lingo that, while generally understood by most professionals, is trite and tedious. We polled our network of entrepreneurs to find out the most annoying pieces of business jargon and came up with this list of phrases to eliminate from your vocabulary.
- At your earliest convenience
We all know that when you’re asked to do something “at your earliest convenience,” it means the other person is impatiently waiting for you do it and it’s probably anything but convenient!
Skip the passive aggressiveness; if it’s truly urgent, ask the person to get it back to you “as soon as you can” or give a specific deadline.
- I don’t have the bandwidth
A “professionally acceptable” way to say you’re too busy to do something you’ve been asked to do. Not only is that in itself problematic, but it can end up giving the impression that you’re unable to properly manage your time.
Instead, speak in specifics about why you might not be the best person for the job and ask your boss to help assign priority to your workload. For instance, “I’ve been working full time on the Peterson proposal. If [new project] is more important, I’d be happy to switch my focus to that.”
- Putting out a fire
Used most frequently when someone is late or otherwise inconvenienced because of another person’s mistake. Unfortunately, it can also come off condescending.
Instead, say you were dealing with an employee/customer service/internal matter and thank the other person for waiting.
- Take this offline
Email becoming too cumbersome for a complicated topic? You might be tempted to ask the other person to “take the conversation offline.”
How about this novel approach: just ask, “can I call you?”
- Put a pin in it
A polite way to say you want to postpone the conversation until a later date. In reality, it can come off as anything but polite.
Instead, just say what you mean—there are other topics that take priority and you’ll come back to this one if and when time and resources allow.
- Move the needle
My own personal pet peeve. This is one of those phrases that seems so fresh and original the first time you hear it, then every time after that (and there will be many) it sounds like a cliché.
When people say “move the needle,” they’re typically referring to making some sort of impact for a client or stakeholder. A better bet is to give concrete examples of your success, i.e. “we increased revenue by 34% year over year.”
I’ve seen this one used in a few variations: to mean giving up, going all-in on a shoddy idea, or most often, passing off responsibility to someone else.
In any case, such a casual term makes it sounds as if you’re nonchalant about your failure, which is never a good thing.
I admit I felt a pang of guilt when I saw this submission because I use it all the time. But I have to admit the use of the word “team” to refer to a group is annoying and often comes with what feels like fabricated, “rah-rah” cheerfulness.
Depending on the level of formality within your organization, “Hi everyone” or “Hello all” can feel less stilted.
- Only so many ways to skin a cat
Gross! Do we really need to expand on this one?
- Pick your brain
When someone asks to pick your brain, they’re usually asking for free advice—which, depending on your relationship, might be a pretty hefty favor.
Instead, be a bit more genuine in your request, like “you have the most extensive background in the company on [topic]. I’d really value your opinion on [issue you need help with].”
- Loop someone in
Say what you mean, dang it! You want to include them in the conversation.
- It was my expectation that…
Things have unfolded differently than you expected, and now you’re ticked off. “It was my expectation that…” is usually a passive-aggressive way to throw a colleague under the bus or call out a subordinate on a mistake. Or perhaps you didn’t make your expectations clear from the start?
The most professional move is to address the issue directly with the party involved—and if it’s that important, email might not be the best channel for the conversation.
- Area of opportunity
Let’s just all agree to call it what it is: a failure.
Which business jargon annoys you the most? Let us know in the comment section!
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