This is the worst business jargon of 2022


By Kathleen Davis

Jargon exists in just about all workplaces. While each has its own industry-specific terms and acronyms, jargon is often a verbal shorthand for communicating within a small professional circle. Some industries have so many terms that we consider them a new “language” (see: legalese or academese). In that way, jargon is meant to be exclusionary: It’s a signal that you are part of a shared culture that is confusing to outsiders.

Aside from industry-specific language, general business jargon has infiltrated most offices. Whether the intention is to signal “in-group” membership, or if it’s used as an attempt to sound smarter, reliance on jargon can make people tune out and lead to miscommunication. Not to mention most of it is just plain awful.

Business jargon is so ubiquitous and most everyone is guilty of using it, yet it’s also pretty widely disliked. So, on the latest episode of The New Way We Work, we thought we’d have some fun and root out the worst of the worst. We whittled an extensive lexicon of bad office jargon down to 16 widely used terms and phrases, presented here in one cringy jargon-filled statement:

We need to disrupt this with some thought leadership: I want to empower you to think outside the box, let’s blue sky some ideas beyond the low hanging fruit. We need something that will really move the needle. I want to circle back on those ideas that we double clicked on last week and took offline. I think we had a lot of alignment on the ways to create synergy so now we just need to get boots on the ground so we can leverage it. Who has the bandwidth to start growth hacking

This is the worst business jargon of 2022

Fast Company senior editors Julia Herbst and Lydia Dishman joined me on the podcast to debate each phase in a March madness-style bracket where we narrowed it down to a final piece of jargon that we should all eliminate from our vocabulary.

This is the worst business jargon of 2022

Some terms like “thought leader” and “empower” struck a more irritating nerve with us because we see them overused in pitches. While others like “boots on the ground,” “double click,” and “growth hacking” aren’t ones that we have personally encountered in our daily office life, they are annoying for their connotations and sound. Some like “circle back” and “move the needle” may be tired and overused, but serve as a useful and concise way to convey meaning—the original purpose of jargon, after all. Others, like “disrupt,” have been used so much they feel dated and meaningless.

The winner of “worst business jargon” went to a term we have all likely heard in a meeting at some point in the last year. While it may not be the worst word on this list, it certainly is overused and we are happy to officially retire it. Listen to the episode to find out what which word won and our logic for each round of elimination.

You can listen and subscribe to The New Way We Work on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsStitcherSpotifyRadioPublic, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Fast Company