Overused Buzzwords and Phrases in the Workplace

Words we would like to see retired in 2015

Have the same buzzwords been in your playbook a bit too long? Are the metaphorical pages in your daily dictionary becoming weathered, filled with overused catchphrases and once-trendy expressions that still monopolize your business meetings, presentations and watercooler conversations?

If so, then we’re just as guilty as you are! As marketing, communications, event planning and PR professionals, we are by nature on the constant watch for the next latest and greatest thing – the up-and-coming, shiny and new practice or philosophy that will make us stand out. That’s the nature of our job as subject matter experts, trend spotters and innovators.

But in the end, sometimes we fall into a trap – not only of sounding unlike our real selves, but, perhaps even worse, of sounding all alike.

Industry jargon and specialized vernacular become the par-for-the-course lingo at work for a number of reasons, among them: fitting into and maintaining the established culture, attempting to cultivate or adopt a new culture, modeling and mimicking peers and mentors, and projecting what some believe professionalism and authority must sound like.

Here are just a few of the more common overused buzz words and phrases in the workplace that have probably seen better days and whose prime may be well past.


Buzzwords to Retire
What People Really Mean When They Say It
Engagement To cultivate feelings of goodwill and a prevailing positive sentiment
Ninja Describing someone whose expertise in a particular arena is exceptional
Laser-focused Supremely attentive to or talented at one particular skill or competency, or concentrating on something to the exclusion of everything else
Pivot To explain the deviation from one plan that wasn’t working to a new plan
Scrappy Referring to an individual or an approach that is spunky, energetic and a bit rough around the edges
Connect To expand one’s circle of reach or influence
Parking lot To put off a topic for later discussion
Offline To revisit a subject at a later time, usually in private
Game-changer A person or an action upending the status quo
Action item A task that necessitates completion, usually assigned to an individual or team, with a deadline


Language is always changing. We see it every year when Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary adds new words (In 2014, crowdfunding, hotspot, hashtag and digital divide made the cut.).

Are we actually inventing new terms through our business buzzwords? Or are we suffering from a lack of imagination and originality? Which buzzwords do you think are next on the horizon, and which ones should we begin digging graves for?

Alt-text: communication, public relations, audience, branding, culture

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