Cringeworthy Office Jargon: It’s Time to Take it Offline

Annoying office jargon
Annoying office jargon

“Let’s touch base”

It’s like nails on a chalkboard.

The workplace is full of strange cringeworthy phrases. And like the common cold in an open-plan office, they just keep spreading.

Every industry has its own terminology that’s confusing and even off-putting to newcomers, let alone potential clients and investors. Yet sometimes, terminology is a necessary evil. Where would the property industry be without alienation provisions and biodiversity offsetting, anyway?

But for annoying office jargon, there’s no better place than the recycle bin – and some experts even believe it can be detrimental to business. That may be true, but when it comes to poking fun at office jargon, it never gets old.

Which of these clangers are you guilty of?

Old School Horrors:

  • Are we all singing from the same spreadsheet? It might once have been amusing. Exactly when, I have no idea. But there’s no place for this wince-inducing phrase in a civilised 21st century workplace.
  • Blue sky thinking: It’s somehow reminiscent of 90s yuppies with mobile phones the size of house bricks. The theory behind it is indeed important to business – it involves looking at an idea or opportunity with fresh eyes, where all suggestions count. It can lead to innovative new angles or products. So far, so positive. Just leave nature out of it.
  • Touch base: Deriving from baseball where runners need to ‘touch the base’ to score a run. In the office, it simply means to make or renew contact with someone. What’s wrong with “I’ll call you”?
  • Let’s take it offline: This is a pet peeve. In our digital age of Wi-Fi and constant connectivity, this phrase actually has nothing to do with technology. It’s a maddening way to say “Let’s talk about this later” or, perhaps more accurately, “Let’s pretend we’re going to discuss it and then forget about it.”

How many of these old-school horrors have you uttered in your working lifetime? We’re all guilty at some point or other. What’s worse is that, rather than dying out, office jargon is simply evolving with a modern twist.

Among the latest street-savvy phrases to hit the office, a survey by UKTV channel Dave rated the following phrases as some of the worst offenders:

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Modern Office Jargon:

  • Social notworking: Used to describe someone who really should be working, but is instead sneakily spending time on Facebook or another social network. Hence, ‘social notworking’.
  • Drainstorm: Moving on from ‘brainstorm’, this odd little phrase is attributed to a poorly organised event or workshop, which leaves the team feeling somewhat deflated.
  • Procaffeinating: The art of making a cup of coffee at a precise moment in order to put off a particular task or to avoid a phone call.
  • Velodrones: Colleagues who are evangelical about cycling to work. Their commitment to an environmentally-friendly method of transport and daily life-or-death battle with rush hour traffic is nothing short of heroic. In the meantime, out-of-towners who endure a daily 2-hour commute with soaring petrol prices and clogged roads can’t help but feel a touch bitter.

Most, if not all of these phrases will probably have you squirming in your seat. However, somewhere in this expanding list of office jargon is a sign of office culture, of poorly motivated employees and lack of engagement in the workplace. Can a ‘drainstorm’ meeting actually damage morale? When was the last time you fired up your creativity with a no-holds-barred session of ‘blue sky thinking’? Peel off the label and you’ll find some quite startling clues to the state of the modern workplace.

In the meantime, the evolution of office jargon just keeps getting better… or worse. While I can never hear someone say “let’s touch base” without an involuntary grimace, some more modern phrases are quite amusing. My particular favourite is ‘Google Naps’. It refers to employees using Google to work out what time overseas colleagues will be sleeping, in order to avoid receiving emails. Hand on heart. Can you honestly say you’ve never done that?

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