Despite the significant strides that has been made in making workplaces more equitable, respectful, and professional, there remains one area of office life where progress has been on the slow side. We are talking language. More specifically, the use of certain phrases that really should have been consigned to the history books long ago yet continue to thrive in organisations everywhere.
Here are some phrases that you may hear daily, but they do need to be avoided. Some are irritating, others have no real meaning whatsoever, and one or two are quite simply so silly and non-sensical that you will find yourself questioning if the person uttering them is on the same planet as you.
‘We’re building the plane while we’re flying it.’
A staple in the lexicon of many a start-up, this oft-repeated phrase has been doing the rounds since the mid-2000s, thanks in part to LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman. He used it to describe the realities of life as a fast-growing tech company where the founders are by and large ‘making it up as they go along.’ In that context, it certainly works. But the phrase has been adopted and applied to all manner of things in a way that has seen its original intention become diluted and meaningless.
‘Can you hear me? I think you are still on mute.’
Is there anyone who hasn’t either heard or uttered the above at any stage in the last two years? We thought not. Video technology has come on leaps and bounds and has permeated every aspect of our working lives, yet too many of us still get the most basic function right: checking the mute button is off at the beginning of a virtual meeting. Hey, it was fine in those first few months of the pandemic, but if you are still speaking or hearing these words then you really do need some training!
‘With all due respect.’
When was the last time someone said this to you in a meeting, how did it make you feel? Anecdotal evidence suggests that those on the receiving end of this phrase believe the person addressing them actually has little or no respect for what they think. So, the next time the words ‘With all due respect’ edge their way towards the tip of your tongue, it might be a good idea to bite said tongue unless you wish to frustrate the person you are addressing.
‘Think outside the box.’
Thinking creatively (or ‘outside’ the proverbial box) helps satisfy the ongoing need for organisations to always be innovating their products and services. As such, the poor old box itself is becoming more and more redundant and anyone found to be thinking inside the box often loses favour with the powers that be. The phrase ‘Thinking outside the box’ dates to the 1980s – a decade packed full of clichés, shoulder pads, and mullets. Some things really are meant to stay in the past.
‘This is a game-changer.’
Is it, really? Game-changer is on a par with that other tech favourite – the ‘disruptor’. Uber was a game-changer. AirBnB was, too. However, its use in marketing and business parlance has become saturated, which in turn has seen it lose any impact it once had. Remember, not all self-professed game-changers live up to their own publicity: Apple famously hyped up the Segway as a game-changer for city commuting, and we all saw how that played out.
There are many more that we couldn’t fit into this article but are right up there at the top of the most annoying workplace phrases ever – low hanging fruit, blue sky thinking, and going forward’ to name but three. What phrases get under your skin the most?
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