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No More ‘Tiger Teams’ and ‘Idea Showers’: Nix the Business Jargon in Employee Communications

“Let’s do a deep dive and drill down into the bandwidth of our deliverables, tapping into our synergy to create a quick win for our team. Then we’ll circle back and touch base to ascertain that we’re on the road to making this project the legend I know it will become! You’re all superstars; thanks for all your hard work.”

Sound familiar? These are all words and phrases that leaders are prone to use in the workplace, peppering their vocabulary with ubiquitous business-speak and buzzwords. A few of these also made Inc.’s list of the 50 most annoying business words and phrases of 2023—along with overused terms such as “ecosystem,” “pivot” and “go granular.”

Meanwhile, “boil the ocean,” “leverage” and “tiger team” are on an Indeed list of jargony words and phrases.

Sometimes jargon is just industry shorthand, allowing people in the know to share ideas quickly. But it can also be a way for employers to avoid being straightforward, such as informing employees of an impending “corporate outplacing” instead of the blunter “layoffs.”

Such puffery, also known as “jargon monoxide,” can keep people at a distance, according to Eloise Leeson-Smith, a linguist and language expert in Edinburgh, Scotland. Employees often don’t understand jargon used by their senior colleagues, which puts them at a disadvantage, she explained.

“If employees do not feel empowered to ask questions, then they are left unsure of what is being asked of them and are not confident to have these conversations with their senior colleagues,” Leeson-Smith said.

Also, employees are less likely to start conversations with colleagues who use jargon.

“Corporate jargon is all too common in the workplace but can be exclusionary and leave employees feeling left out, creating barriers between them and their colleagues,” Leeson-Smith said. “For any company wanting to foster a workplace culture of inclusion and prioritize staff mental well-being, creating opportunities for employees to communicate and connect authentically is essential.”

SHRM Online collected the following articles on this topic:

Fearing Social Media Backlash, Companies Are Using All Kinds of Euphemisms to Avoid Being Straightforward About Layoffs

Have you suffered an “involuntary career event” recently? Perhaps you were a casualty of “corporate outplacing.” Executives believe that this kind of vague language placates workers, according to Robert Sutton, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He called the “anesthetizing” language “jargon monoxide.”


Circling Back on Corporate Speak: The History and Impact of Business Jargon

Business jargon does more than annoy workers. It obstructs communication and undermines productivity and culture at businesses. Jargon-free communication helps avoid misunderstandings and facilitates the timely exchange of information, Business Strategy Series says. Eliminating jargon helps managers and employees communicate effectively and efficiently.

(Rivier University)

Tired of ‘Circling Back’ and ‘Touching Base’? How to Handle All the Workplace Jargon

Now’s a good time—if you have the bandwidth—to touch base about a pain point that’s evidently bothering many white-collar workers: office jargon.

The business buzzwords (or corporate cliches, if you prefer) can both facilitate communication and cause confusion. And, as anyone who’s ever made or heard a “synergy” joke offline knows, they can also sound trite, ring hollow and even feel alienating.


‘Jargon Monoxide’ in Our Workplaces

Every workplace has its fair share of jargon, buzzwords, business-speak and abbreviations. Sometimes the language serves a useful purpose, such as condensing a complicated process into a single word or phrase to save time. But when it slips out of the boss’s mouth once too often, it is usually for the wrong reasons, which is when “jargon monoxide poisoning” takes place.

(Australian Institute of Management)

The Upside of Workplace Jargon

An idea to run up the flagpole: Jargon gets an overly bad press. Not the kind of jargon that involves using the words “flagpole” and “run up,” but the kind that binds teams together. 

(The Economist)


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.