Corporate Buzzwords that Need to Die.

(* With thanks to Sandie, who started this discussion…)



This is an old chestnut, but you still hear it.   Typically, someone in a meeting will say “It’s all about the optics” and like a quintessential knob, they’ll insert their finger quotes. 

(I personally think anyone using finger quotes should be strung up by their thumbs and flogged with a three-hole punch, but I digress here…)

When people say “optics” what they actually mean is “this is how it might appear”.   

So why don’t they just say that IN THE FIRST PLACE?   Why must people insist on NOT speaking ENGLISH?

What a lame-ass metaphor!   

Do you know what I think about when I hear this buzzword? …Telescope mirrors and microscope lenses!  

Now…THAT’s what real “optics” is!   (No finger quotes required.)


Step up to the plate

Hello, this is the 1990’s calling.   We’d like our buzzword back. 

This one is so old, it’s lost all semblance of originality and spontaneity.   Can we just all agree to put this puppy to bed?

Yet managers still ask you to step up to the plate, whenever they want you to work your keister off…usually above and beyond the level of your job description, with no compensation for your overtime. 

When never I hear “step up to the plate”, I immediately see myself at a baseball diamond, holding a bat in front of the catcher.    

But my mental image quickly changes to that of taking the bat and pummeling the idiot who’s asking me to step up to the plate.

I’m guessing this might not be the desired motivation the speaker had in mind…



Challenge is the Corporate Thoughtspeak way of saying “Oboy.  This sucks.  This is a major problem that we have absolutely NO IDEA how to solve.   But we want you to solve it anyway”. 

For example,  it  will be a challenge to get this report done when everyone is off sick and the computer system is down.   

It will be a challenge to get the power plant back on-line without the new pump.   

Sorry that you have to share a cubicle with a mouth-breathing psychopath.   We realize this is a challenge but we’ll need you to step up to the plate until the situation can be improved. 

Challenge is just a rubber-stamp word they use to make it sound like the horrible task is something you’ll WANT to do.   It’s like they’re offering you the opportunity to prove yourself under stress.  

No thanks, I decline.  

It’s time to put “challenge” out to pasture, and find a better word to replace it.

May I suggest “Fuster Cluck?” 



A couple of years ago , this was a word you hardly ever heard, except for maybe in the title of a Jane Austen book.   But now this Flavor-of-the-month buzzword is everywhere, and it’s rapidly growing stale.

The expectation is that you will come into work on time….The expectation is that you will work appropriate hours…The expectation is that you will be familiar with this procedure…

I feel like answering:   “My expectation is that you SHUT UP and stop talking to me like I’m in idiot!”  

Whenever you hear “expectation”, it’s a sure sign the person is a graduate from the Chip Implant Academy.



This word bugs me because it’s constantly dangled in front of you, as in something you’re not doing. 

 “It’s important that we meet our commitments…the expectation is that you fulfill your commitments…”  

Commitment is just another bullshit word for deadlines.    

The good thing about commitment is that you can throw it right back at them. 

If you’re asked to work overtime on the weekend, you can tell them “Sorry, I have other commitments“.     And they can’t argue against that, can they?

Maybe your commitments involve watching TV and drinking beer.  

But hey, nobody says you have to tell them that.



 (Oh, no.  Surely not THIS one, Jacques!)   

Not the dreaded U-Bomb!

When a manager says “This is unacceptable“, it means they’re really pissed off about the situation.   It’s about as close as they can come to swearing at you and still get away with it. 

And once they’ve said it, this apparently gets them off the hook.   Beacause now they’re transferred the responsibilty to you.   Now YOU go and make it better

What gets me is that they typically tell you this long after the fact, when nobody can do anything about it. That’s what makes this word so god-dammed useless.    

It’s happened.   Accept it.   DEAL WITH IT.

And do you ever notice the arrogant tone when you’ve been “unacceptabilized”?  It’s like you’re expected to quake in our boots and beg for forgiveness.  

Also, there is rarely any follow-up or constructive feedback on how you might fix things.   

What’s funny (and sad) is that normal people have been starting to use this word in everyday life.  

For example, if a kid is misbehaving, a parent might think they’re pulling out the big guns by telling little Damien that his behavior is “unacceptable”

Yeahhhh…..Right.     Try telling that to a five-year old having a tantrum!

Let me know how that works for you, okay?


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27 Comments on “Corporate Buzzwords that Need to Die.”

  1. wendikelly Says:


    This is an unnacceptable post.

    Just kidding. 🙂 I just really wanted to use that word! How fun. How powerful. Maybe I’ll try saying that to my dog today and see how far it gets me. She’ll just wag her pretty tail at me and smile.

    My first week or so in cubicle land was bewildering. I had a hard time trying to decipher the gibberish coming out of their mouths and WE were corporate communications! Why is it so hard to speak plain english in a tall building?

  2. Friar Says:


    Hahahah! You got the lingo down perfectly! If some manager saw this post, that’s EXACTLY what they’d say! 🙂

    Why dont’ people speak English? My theory is the Rulers of Cubicle-Land aren’t that smart. But to hide that fact from the rest of us worker-peons, and to protect their own existence, they invent their own language that nobody else understands. They think this makes them look smart.

    And when in doubt, they throw in a bunch of useless acronyms.

  3. Ellen Wilson Says:

    I hate lingo associated with jobs. I think it dehumanizes people. In education (I used to teach) there are all these stupid words to describe things also, like higher order thinking skills. I love that. Like, if we actually PRESS kids to think, they are using higher order thinking skills. Like a different part of their brain or something.

    I think your theory is correct. That’s really sad. I wonder why the really intelligent people don’t get rewarded with these jobs?

  4. Steph Says:

    God, this was perfect!! I couldn’t believe it when I saw “step up to the plate.” My husband’s heard me rant on and on about this one! I actually quit being a financial advisor because if I heard it one more time at the office I was going to going to step up to the plate, all right, though not in the way they wanted!

    I also worked with a woman who *constantly* said, “That’s just unacceptable.” I mean, A LOT. I started making fun of her to her face, feeding her line back to her. In the end, she made fun of herself too but it only made her say it more, then. I don’t work there anymore, either.

    Some others I really hate: “think outside the box,” “touch base,” “stretch the envelope,” “I need it yesterday,” “seeing the bigger picture…” oh lord. I could go on and on and on…but we hate these things, so best that I don’t!

  5. Friar Says:


    I think the really intelligent people dont’ WANT the corporate management jobs! 🙂

    I woudln’t take one of those positions if you doubled my salary!

    Sounds like your ‘unacceptable’ woman was the same witch I worked with!

    As soon as people start using the “lingo” on me, I instantly distrust them. Because they’ve crossed over to the dark side..they’re re one of “THEM”.

  6. Ann Onymouse Says:


    What I dislike during presentations, more that buzz words, is when someone precedes a comment with ” . . . and I quote”. And with two fingers of each hand they insert imaginary Air Fairy quotation marks.

  7. They are indeed an endless source of frustration.
    Thanks for the post!

  8. Brett Legree Says:

    I find it unacceptable that you are blogging from work.

    The expectation is that you will meet your commitments and deliverables on time, on budget. A world class organization would expect this – no compromise.

    Step up.

    Can I have a repeat back on that?

  9. Friar Says:


    Thanks for the links. Obviously there are a lot of buzz-word haters out there! (Makes me wonder who actually likes to use them, then?)

    I’ve prioritized my committments, and I’m taking pro-active measures to ensure that my expectations are met, world class…NO COMPROMISE.

    Yes, you may have a repeat-back. That is correct.

  10. Ann Onymouse Says:

    @ Brett

    Both you and Friar are Blogging from work. Unless you’re in a Time Warp.

    I know it must be painful, but just “Bite the bullet”, and focus on work.

  11. Friar Says:

    There you go…Brett. We’ve been told.

    Ann…please dont tell Big Brother. We’ll behave. We promise! 🙂

  12. Steph Says:

    @Brett and Friar: Ahahahahaha!!! 🙂

  13. Friar Says:


    Maybe Ann IS Big Brother….:-)

  14. neyellen Says:

    @Friar and Brett – This is entirely acceptable. You are paying yourself to blog. I think you have figured out a site subsidization technique. *snort*

    @Steph – Yes, sucky jobs suck. That’s why it’s good to freelance. I do get lonely though. But that’s part of life, and I guess it’s acceptable.

  15. Friar Says:


    It’s survival mode. If I didn’t allow myself to occasionally look at my blog…I’d probably kill myself out of sheer boredom.

  16. Ann Onymouse Says:

    @ Friar

    Who knows? Maybe Ann is Andy.

  17. Kelly Says:


    Bwah ha ha!

    “The expectation is”… See how divorced that is from the person saying it to you? Not “I want” or even “I expect,” but THE expectation is, so you can’t argue with it. It’s not their own expectation, it’s THE expectation. I love that. There is a use for THE procedure, and for inarguable facts, but THE expectation is just cowardice. Say “I expected, yet YOU sucked.” Tell the truth.

    My least favorites besides the delights you quote here: “FYI” and “no rush.” Both are usually code for “let’s see how you can impress me with this useless info I’ve just handed you.”

    When I hear either of those, I impress by being the first one to have the cajones to do nothing at all with the info. You did say it was simply FYI, and no rush…

    Friar, have I ever mentioned how I adore your sense of humor? Just FYI, of course.



  18. Friar Says:


    There is something about someone telling me what “the expectation is” that just sets my teeth on edge. I think you’re right..about how “the expectation” is impersonal. Cowards use it (instead of owning up to it and saying “I expect this”).

    As for “This is the procedure”..oh don’t get me started. We have “Procedure Queens” at the Widget Factory that live, breathe and eat these documents. That’s all they do is quote procedures (which are of course, never EVER wrong!) 😉

    I’m glad you like my sense of humor. I’m pleased with my cartoon of someone taking the managers’ head and knocking it off like a tee-ball.

    You can see where I first got the inspiration…from my “meeting notes” a month ago.

  19. Karen Swim Says:

    Friar, these were great. I hate air quotes! I also hated work-life balance which in corporate really means the balance better tip in the company’s favor. All flavors of “Quality” which never meant anything other than we say this crap because it sounds good in brochures and looks good to shareholders. In the real world I may sock someone if I hear “rock star” or “killer” ever again in life unless it refers to Mick Jagger (or other rocker) or someone who has murdered someone else, which I may do if someone asks me to be a rock star writer and deliver killer copy.

  20. Friar Says:

    Well, I guess hating buzzwords is nothing new, but I was pleased to vent about it. It makes it a bit easier to deal with at work! 🙂

    “Quality” is another good one. Quality product, quality assurance, quality control…blah blah blah. I read the procedures and it’s just a bunch of words that mean NOTHING.

    In my opinion, if you cant’ explain it to your grandmother in one or two sentences, then you don’t understand it!

  21. 6 Weeks Says:

    […] about us.  Other, other people who only care about commitments.  Deliverables.  Milestones.  Corporate buzzwords that need to die. Working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t […]

  22. Sandie Says:

    I could go on and on about “challenge.” My boss proposes new tasks as a “challenge.” My current set of “challenges” has me working 65+ hours a week AND trying to go to school. Yeah, I’m shoving that “challenge” right back at her.

    Here’s my corporate buzz word: “burnout.”

  23. Friar Says:

    Ooooh…I HATE “Challenge”. Dont’ even get my started!

    Another version of “challenge” is to disagree with someone. I once gave a presentation, and the manager said he “challenged me”….(basically meaning that he thought I was wrong and he was right). And he proceded to lecture me in front of 20 peoepl. (What an a-hole!)

    Hahaha. Notice how “burnout” is never in the boss’s vocabulary. That’s because the “expectation” as that you “step up to the plate” to meet the “challenge”.

  24. 6 Weeks Says:

    […] itself on being “professional” and “top notch” (I’ve used different corporate buzzwords, to protect the […]

  25. Can I just chime in here and say the same thing goes for using insider corporate abbreviations. Are people supposed to know and recognize them?

    Have you ever noticed how during a conversation everything gets reduced to initials? I’m thinking I’m OK with CEO but I get a little bit lost when we move onto COO and PM. Each industry seems to have insider terms. Why do they think we understand what they are talking about? Why can’t people just use, air quote, plain English? End air quote.


  26. Friar Says:


    I agree….after CEO, I have no idea what CFO and CPO and Ee-Eye, Ee-Eye-Oh mean.

    Too many workplaces (especially mine) thrive on acroynms. Stupid code-words that nobody else knows, except those that are “in the loop”.

    This is so 105-IQ Managers can lord it over the rest of us, and feel superiour.

    You’re right. They need to Speak. Freaking. ENGLISH.

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