What Bad Business Buzzwords Really Mean

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At the beginning of every year, business articles repurpose lists of the “Office jargon that should be left in the dust.” Problem is, these summaries don’t offer more useful alternatives. I mean, we’ve successfully excised “Synergy” from our daily conversations, but what’s supposed to fill the void?

With that in mind, here’s a list of 15 buzzwords that should be permanently sealed in the 2016 archives, along with suggestions for more down-to-earth replacements.


Buzzword: Double Down

Sample usage: “I’d like to Double Down on Kyle’s point about repositioning the Contact Form on our About page.”

What it really means: “I don’t have that much to add to this meeting, so I’ll use a hard-edged alliterative phrase with focused emotion to convey a bias for action.”

Say this instead: Agreed


Buzzword: Mission Critical

Sample usage: “I know we've been spending time developing our social selling personas, but looking ahead to Q2, CRM integration will be mission critical.”

What it really means: “When I was watching The Sum of All Fears on Netflix last night, I liked how the Chief of Staff rallied everybody together using military terminology. It made me think, you know, maybe CRM integration isn't so different from an international political crisis.”

Say this instead: Important

Buzzword: Pivot

Sample usage: “Looking at the data, live event revenue in Knoxville just doesn’t offset the cost. Let’s pivot to digital.”

What it really means: “When I was in high school, I was an alternate to the varsity basketball team. One thing I learned is that when you stop dribbling, you only get to move one foot around. It’s called your pivot foot. Know what I mean?”

Say this instead: Adjust our Plan 

Buzzword: To [Someone’s] Point

Sample usage:

Ed: “If we don’t leave at 4, we’ll miss the flight.”

Don: “Yeah, to Ed’s point, let’s wrap at 4 to make the flight on time.”

What it really means: “I honestly have nothing to add.”

Say this instead: Yup


Buzzword: Run it up the Flagpole

Sample usage: “In theory, it might be redundant to use a mass email to ask customers if we email them too often, but let’s run it up the flagpole and see what happens.”

What it really means: “I’d rather half-test your idea than talk about it for literally one more second. Plus, if it tanks, I’m absolved of any guilt by association.”

Say this instead: Test it out

Buzzword: Thought Leader

Sample usage: “During your onboarding, you’ll meet Cal, our internal thought leader for leading-edge megatrends. When you click Like on his posts, it boosts your visibility on LinkedIn.”

What it really means: “We’re lazy thinkers.”

Say this instead: Expert


Buzzword: Best of Breed

Sample usage: “When it comes to lead gen, our automated marketing software is best of breed.

What it really means: “People call me a cat guy but I’m really more of a cat and dog guy. If you own a pet, I’ll knit you a swipe card cozy with their name in all caps. It just has to be under nine letters or else it takes-up two lines.”

Say this instead: Best in Class

Buzzword: On the Go Forward

Sample usage: “Per Karen and Neil’s presentation in Butte, on the go forward, our logo will look like a purple soccer ball flying through a storm cloud.”

What it really means: “I try to appear like I’m obsessed with procedure when talking about subjects that really don’t matter to me.”

Say this instead: Moving Forward


Buzzword: Circle Back

Sample usage: “We’ve spent the past few meetings talking about deal flow and account size, but next week we’ll circle back to those top-of-the-funnel awareness opportunities.”

What it really means: “Going through sales funnels is a giant pain in the ass. I promise…no…I SWEAR…no more procrastination. It’s on the agenda. You know. Next week.”

Say this instead: Revisit


Buzzword: Aligned

Sample usage: “The client’s plan is aligned with their people-centric focus on education over expansion.”

What it really means: “I’m obsessed with order, and have a predilection for perfectly-organized calendar holds. I know it’s only 12:02, but should we start without Tony? Let’s start without Tony.”

Say this instead: On the same page

Buzzword: Offsite

Sample usage: “OUT OF OFFICE ALERT: Greetings: I’m currently attending an Offsite through Friday, and will be unreachable via phone or email. For emergencies, please contact John in the home office.”

What it really means: “OUT OF OFFICE ALERT: Greetings: I’m currently attending a Company Training Session right here in the office. Even though I’ll have full access to my phone and email like anyone else on the planet, I’m using the event as a smokescreen to make it appear like I’m in some faraway location with zero digital service. Say goodbye as your email vanishes into the Offsite Auto-Responder Black Hole! Whoosh!”

Say this instead: Camp


Buzzword: Pushback

Sample usage: “I’m gonna give you some pushback on that one, Bruce. The project hasn’t received a lot of buzz, and it’s not a Yes until at least the fall.”

What it really means: “Rather than say no and potentially hurt your feelings, I’d like to prime the bad news with a short preamble, giving you a subconscious feeling of preparedness for what will certainly piss you off.”

Say this instead: No


Buzzword: Dig in

Sample usage: “I’m gonna dig in on the notion that we need to focus more on recruiting and less on training.”

What it really means: “Since we work in an environment of respectable professional decorum, I speak as if I’m challenging you to an 18th Century duel, my good sir. This is less a dialogue about training and more of a caucus on hiring. Egad!”

Say this instead: You’re wrong

Buzzword: Bandwidth

Sample usage: “Thanks for the ask to run Tuesday’s B2B stream at the PentaMobile Conference in Seattle. Unfortunately, we’ll be in planning and I just won’t have the bandwidth.”

What it really means: “I’m the busiest person on the planet, and the only way I can help people understand my impossible-to-fathom-workload is to compare myself to an android with frequencies used for signal transmission. 1001001.”

Say this instead: Time

Buzzword: Transparency

Sample usage: “In the spirit of full corporate transparency, we’ll be publishing our annual report on the internal server as a secondary touchpoint for employee access and viewing.”

What it really means: “We have a lot to hide.”

Say this instead: Honesty