Accountable Healthcare - Top 31 Buzzwords That Employees Truly Hate
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March 27, 2023

Top 31 Buzzwords That Employees Truly Hate

Bosses who want to earn their employees' respect should avoid these tired, irritating cliches.

Buzzwords, corporate-speak, biz-blab--call it what you will, most organizations are awash in it. Like a speaker's verbal tics, once you become aware of somebody's overuse of buzzwords, it's like the constant drip of a leaky faucet.

Even worse, business buzzwords, unlike technical terms, have fuzzy meanings. (What does "holistic" really mean?)  Because spoken words and internal thoughts are in, ahem, a feedback loop, fuzzy meanings lead to fuzzy thinking, according to neuroscience.

The Atlantic recently asked its readers to rate 32 business buzzwords against one another, in something of an elimination tournament. The winner of that process was "lean in," which was probably around before Sheryl Sandberg co-opted it for her book.

What I found interesting, though, are the raw scores that each buzzword achieved when introduced into the contest, because the number of votes that each received is an indicator of how much people dislike that particular buzzword.

So I created a little spreadsheet and re-ranked the buzzwords according to their perceived heinousness when compared with another buzzword with a similar meaning. (Note: I left out one buzzword, explanation to follow.) Here's the list:

  1. Holistic approach (958)
  2. Pivot (947)
  3. Unpack (806)
  4. Circle back (794)
  5. Buy in (702)
  6. Change agent (675)
  7. Lean in (646)
  8. Bandwidth (643)
  9. Think outside the box (604)
  10. Align (545)
  11. Ping (534)
  12. Double click (499)
  13. Deep Dive (491)
  14. Close the loop (472)
  15. Touch base (459)
  16. Liaise (404)
  17. Value proposition (374)
  18. Hop on a call (363)
  19. Loop in (352)
  20. Debrief (341)
  21. Pain points (338)
  22. Win-win (337)
  23. Silo (309)
  24. Disruption (292)
  25. Optics (291)
  26. Huddle (283)
  27. Robust (264)
  28. At capacity (259)
  29. Pushback (226)
  30. Move the needle (214)
  31. Stakeholder (200)

The one buzzword I didn't include was "value added," because it garnished only 130 thumbs downs, which was a huge statistical drop from its nearest competitor "stakeholder." The omission is therefore value added, as it were, to The Atlantic's original list.

Would-be leaders (or anyone else) who use a corporate buzzword more than, say, once a minute when speaking, or once a paragraph while writing, risks sounding like a character from Dilbert or The Office. Hard to earn respect when you sound like a joke.