An A-Z of Office Jargon

Apparently – ‘Touch Base” is the most-hated office phrase for a second year in a row.

Certainly – it’s a mainstay of contact requests I get from Linkedin. And if I fail to touch base I usually get someone ‘circling back’ to remind me.

But surely the most in vogue phrase is ‘we’re on a journey’. I was recently at an event where it was used five times – in the first 30 minutes.

None of us are immune to jargon. Defenders of jargon say it acts as necessary professional shorthand – it conveys complicated ideas succinctly. Used well, it does.

The danger comes from using it out of place, especially when dealing with the wider public. It can often distort or confuse.

I’m often guilty of this – words around innovation and design can be especially arcane – often dressing up a simple idea.

And it winds people up. A survey by the Institute of Leadership & Management, revealed that management speak is used in almost two thirds (64%) of offices, with nearly a quarter (23%) considering it to be a pointless irritation.

So I’ve refreshed my A-Z for 2019, here they are:


Was once the ‘collaborative effort of self-organising and cross-functional teams’ but now best used in meetings to make yourself sound down with the kids e.g “is this really agile enough?”


As in “I don’t have the bandwidth for this” – meaning “I don’t have the time for you today sorry”

Circle back

As in “I’m just heading to a very important meeting but we’ll circle-back later”

Deep Dive

As in “We’re going for a deep dive to make sure we utilise all the functionality”

Engage (or Consult/Involve)

See also co-creation, co-design, co-production or co-anything else


An assertion that your latest idea is immune to obsolescence

Going Forward

Meaning “from now on”.  Bonus points for “Go forward together”


Usually a meeting. Just with pizza and t-shirts 


A word that “has come under informal criticism as being a term of meaningless jargon” according to Wikipedia

Joined Up

Taking a ‘holistic, helicopter view of the business’


Key Performance Indicator. Easier if everyone just said ‘target’

Low Hanging Fruit

An open goal. The fruit is hanging right there in front of you – grab it

Mission Statement

A written, but very rarely demonstrated,  ‘reason for being’ in respect of a company and its activities

No ‘I’ in team

Meaning – in case you were in any doubt – that there is no letter I in the word TEAM. Entirely reasonable to hit anyone who says this

Offline (Let’s Take This)

Or even better “let’s ‘touch base’ about that offline”


To change your mind after realising that your project is doomed. A useful euphemism for failure

Quick Win

Small steps or initiatives that produce immediate, positive results without any actual evidence


Use this when you want to make something that’s not remotely exciting sound like it really is 

Singing from the same hymn sheet

Widely used by managers with no idea of how to get everyone in agreement

Touch base

The LinkedIn translation of ‘let’s talk’

User Centricity

Placing your customer at the ‘centre of the service experience and prioritising their needs’ without actually meaning it 

Value Add

Managerial speak for “to make something better”

We’re on a journey

Highlighting that a company, team, project or person will never reach the final mission or objective

Your take

As in I’m keen to hear your take on this as I haven’t got a clue what to say or do

Zero Sum Game

As in “we should never, ever, have started this project in the first place”

You might agree or disagree or want to add more (anyone got an X?)

Let me know!


2 thoughts on “An A-Z of Office Jargon

  1. what irritates the hell out of me is that buzzwords are supposed to mean something new and pioneering when they’re anything but. Case in point: ‘agile’; what is that? Responding quickly and efficiently? Did nobody think that might be a good idea before?

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