SURVEY SAYS: What's the Most Annoying/Cliched Workplace Buzzword?

September 22, 2011 ( - A recent poll of senior executives – including those from human resources, finance, and marketing – identified some of the most annoying/clichéd terms and phrases from the workplace.   

This week I asked readers to vote for the one they found most annoying – but the best part of this week’s survey was the additions they provided to that list.  More on that in a minute.

With regard to the list provided, the following drew a handful of votes:

Customer centric


Full disclosure


Uber (in front of pretty much anything)



The next tier of responses included the following:

Core competency

On the same page/get on the same page


Redeployed people

Going forward



And then, to my eyes/ears anyway, things really began to resonate:




Take it offline



And then, we had the top five, starting with



In all honesty


Before we get to the top two, there were some REALLY good choices that weren’t on the “official” list, but bear mentioning:

Reach out

Throw him/her under the bus

Low-hanging fruit

Irregardless (it happens to not be a word)

Good to go

It is what it is

High level overview

30,000 foot level

Six of one, half dozen of another

That being said 

And there were some really interesting observations, to boot:

You forgot my favorite, "not a problem".  Every time someone one tells me that something is "not a problem", it is.

"It's all good".  That phrase is like fingernails on a chalk board to me anymore.  Every time I hear it from one of the First Vice President's in the area where I work, it means that something is usually on the verge of going wrong.

"Literally" - Used very frequently by people (in and out of the workplace) who have absolutely no idea what "literally" actually means.  Ex.  "Money is literally flying out the window."  Really?  Are dollar bills and coins actually flying out of the window?  I don't think so.  I literally don't think so!

But as for the formal list, the top two vote getters were…



#2 was “thinking outside the box”


And the top vote getter as most obnoxious/annoying/clichéd workplace buzzword was…



“At the end of the day”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey! 

By the way, one reader reminded me that “There's a fun game to play during a boring meeting called "B.S. Bingo" where you write down all of the office cliches on a board and check them off as they are said during the meeting. Once you get a full line you yell out "bingo"!  Consider yourself now armed with a suitable list!

And enjoy the rest of the “contributions” on the pages that follow!


What I am saying to you is . . . .

I hear what you're saying, but....

on the ground




"Silos" (or "de-silo"), "creative abrasion"

Reach out for

perfect storm

One I have been hearing lately is "reach out" as in, "Once we have the information, we will reach out to the client . . . "    What was wrong with the word "contact"?

absolutely, basically, onboarding, human capital, metrics

Any word in front of unique - i.e. most unique, very unique, somewhat unique

Annoying use of "reach out" instead of contact, "opportunity for improvement" instead of problem, and "presentation deck" instead of slides.


"That said

That being said"


Human Capital (just started hearing this one again)



Robuts, cutting edge


total margin management


reengineering, partner

"""Around"", meaning ""about""

You have so many good ones here it was hard to pick just one."

"Thought Capital

Empowerment - better yet the ""lack of"" because that would mean the micromanagers would no longer have anything to do!!!"




24/7 - no one goes 24/7 and lives to tell about it.  In fact even automated call centers or websites don't go 24/7 because on occasion everything "goes down".  So quit telling me you're 24/7.

Here's the thing....

I think the absolute worst is:  "people are our most important asset."  Riiiiiigggggt.

"huddle" as in Let's have a quick team huddle.  Hearing that word or phrase is like the sound of fingernails on a chalk board.

develop symbiotic relationships -

"Reach out (instead of call or contact)


the 80/20 rule

"Now more than ever

20/30/40/50,000 foot level"

Why would anyone have to tell you 'in all honesty', or 'to tell you the truth'.  It implies the person wouldn't be honest or truthful in the first place.


throw me/him/her under the bus


"Where do I start? How about:

""Low-hanging fruit""

people now ""reach out to"" other people... whatever happened to just a gd phone call


but maybe the worst..... because I'll bet people who constantly use it don't even know what it really means..... having the ""bandwidth"" to accomplish something....what went wrong with the word ""resources"""

"My #1 pet peeve:  irregardless - is not a word people, use regardless or irrespective, please!

Another annoyance:  and also to - could you be more redundant?"

we must break down silos

How about "push back"...I hear it constantly and it annoys me to no end. There's a fun game to play during a boring meeting called "B.S. Bingo" where you write down all of the office cliches on a board and check them off as they are said during the meeting. Once you get a full line you yell out "bingo"!

When a person says "literally" when he or she means "figuratively!"  UGH!



"I have a quick question..."  (which of course never has a quick answer!)

Open door policy (Do they really think we will complain to them without fear of retaliation?)

"Most annoying: ""Good to go""

Why? Because it never is......"

I'll have someone "Reach out to you" - makes me want to retch!

they tell us to think outside of the box...or "innovate", yet the org does not truly want us to innovate.  They want us to BILL BILL BILL.

"Solution" wins although, being a reality TV watcher, "at the end of the day" is right up there. So are "outside the box" and "Impactful." And "throwing me under the bus."


It is what it is.

Six of one half dozen of the other.


"It is what it is"....arghhhh

You forgot my favorite, "not a problem".  Every time someone one tells me that something is "not a problem", it is.

"You know?

No I don't know, if I did, you would have to say it."


"It is what it is"

I'm just saying....

"We really want to hear from you.

We really value your opinion.

We want you to be honest with your comments."


on the flip side.....

keeping it real

It is, what it is.

"Tee one up

Low hanging fruit

Budget dust"

organized chaos


Giving it 110%"

Add some color around that

Circle back

You're limiting me to one??  I find most of these annoying and clichéd.

Over Qualified

Really?  That has been overused and annoying lately.



Get the facts and circle back to me

What is competitive?"

I tend to discount cliche users. Look at it this way - auditors make a living retrospectively telling you the problem was that the barn door was open. Consultants make a living suggesting a way to prevent the barn door from ever opening by itself again. Neither one of them caught the missing horse. Therefore, two necessary evils; the former sucks and the latter makes it sound like a compliment.

High level overview

It is what it is.

"In all honesty..."

That is the way we have always done it.


get to the bottom line

paradigm shift"

adding the word "uber" to anything



skill set"

give you a heads up

"These are retirement plan specific:

Transparency (when used in connection with mandated disclosure of bogus information)

Unsustainable (when used to explain that a DB plan will go belly up if contributions are not made)"