Let’s circle back: The 14 most-despised workplace phrases

Let’s circle back: The 14 most-despised workplace phrases


Are you guilty of just checking in on a team player, circling back and touching base, or demanding 110% ASAP? These are the workplace jargon phrases that make employees cringe, especially in the — ahem — ‘new normal’ of hybrid work.

A survey commissioned by Slack and carried out by OnePoll quizzed more than 2000 remote and hybrid workers in the US on how they feel about jargon in the workplace — virtual or otherwise.

About two thirds of respondents, 65%, said they find it off-putting when colleagues use jargon, and more than 50% said they have at least one colleague they don’t like working with because of their communication habits.

The vast majority, however — a massive 89% — admitted to using jargon themselves.

Of those, 43% said they use that language in order to maintain ‘office norms’. The same amount said they used it in order to sound more intelligent or professional.

Some 55% said they have caught themselves using the very same phrases they’re sick of, and 78% have stopped themselves mid-sentence to avoid doing just that.

A massive 83% admitted to going back and editing messages they have already sent, in order to delete jargon and buzzwords.

The jargon terms that caused the most offence include classics like ‘circle back’, ‘touch base’ and ‘keep me in the loop’.

Perhaps a newer entrant is the pandemic special buzzword of the ‘new normal’. Shudder.

The list was topped by the somewhat aggressive ‘ASAP’, and also included requests to ‘give 110%’ or ‘think outside the box’.

Perhaps an odd inclusion was the phrase: ‘sorry for the delay’. An overused and insincere platitude, or a genuine apology from an overstretched employee? We’ll let you make up your mind on that.

Emojis in your emails? LOL

On the flip side, the survey found employees had a positive response to informal workplace communications, including slang, abbreviations and even emojis.

Almost three quarters, 73%, said informal communication has helped them navigate the transition to remote and hybrid work, and 75% said being able to show their personality through work messaging has helped them connect with colleagues.

When using internal messaging systems, 38% of respondents said they use emojis; 36% use abbreviations; 31% use gifs; and 24% use all caps to show excitement.

Such things may seem trivial, but according to Slack’s senior vice president of product Ali Rayl, workplace communication can have a significant impact on workplace effectiveness — particularly in a remote or hybrid environment.

Informal communication can help overcome perceived barriers between senior leadership and employees, Rayl said in a statement.

It can also lead to greater transparency, and encourage a more fun and welcoming team dynamic.

Being mindful of how people communicate at work can help foster a “productive and connected” workplace, Rayl added.

“In this new world of working where teams are distributed, it’s important to be thoughtful and intentional in how we choose to communicate with our co-workers of all backgrounds, locations and ages, to ensure they stay connected and engaged.”

These are the most despised workplace jargon terms:

  1. “ASAP”
  2. “Keep me in the loop”
  3. “Just checking in”
  4. “Team player”
  5. “Give 110%”
  6. “Sorry for the delay”
  7. “New normal”
  8. “No worries”
  9. “Touch base”
  10. “Think outside the box”
  11. “Loop me in”
  12. “Back to square one”
  13. “Circle back”
  14. “There’s no I in team”

This article was first published by SmartCompany.

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