A recent study by the staffing firm Accountemps found that employee conversation is peppered with a potpourri of hackneyed, overused, and irritating clichés and buzzwords that serve no purpose – except to muddle meaning and kill communication.

The study surveyed over 600 Human Resources managers from companies with twenty or more employees and identified specific key words and phrases that serve no purpose other than to fill space or annoy the listener.

Observes Bill Driscoll, Accountemps president of its New England district, “Jargon tends to confuse, not clarify. [so] It’s generally best to avoid the tired clichés and trendy buzzwords in favor of clear, straightforward language.”

In the survey, the HR managers were asked to identify “…the most annoying or overused phrase or buzzword in the workplace today?” The following topped the list:

  • Deep dive
  • Dynamic
  • Employee engagement
  • Forward-thinking
  • Let me get back to you
  • LOL
  • Out of pocket
  • Pick your brain

Many of the words on the list, however, are hardly newcomers, persisting from as far back as 2004. These include classics such as

  • At the end of the day
  • Circle back
  • Leverage
  • Synergy
  • Think outside the box
  • Value-added
  • Win-win

However, some terminology, while annoying, may identify worker dissatisfaction or burnout and the forward thinking who deep dive into these terms can, at the end of the day, improve employee engagement. These terms include

  • Crunch time
  • I am overwhelmed
  • It’s above my pay grade
  • It’s not my job
  • When am I going to get a raise?

As Driscoll says, “Clarity is still king when communicating in the workplace…” and any efforts to improve communication are perfect opportunities for those who think outside the box to create value-added, win-win synergy in the workplace.


Brooks, Chad. “The 20 Most Annoying, Overused and Meaningless Business Buzzwords”; Business News Daily. September 4, 2014.