“If you have the bandwidth, let’s leverage best practice by doubling down and unpacking our strategy with the joined-up thinking needed to drill down on this data-driven paradigm and then send it over the wall.”

Got that?

If you did, you’re probably an alpha male (or tiger girl) member of the Business Jargon Propagation Society!

No longer solely the province of consultants, investors, and business-school types, this annoying gibberish has mesmerised the rank and file around the globe, says Forbes magazine.

It’s also annoying and insults our ability to communicate clearly and effectively to people who may be trying hard to understand what we say.

“Jargon masks real meaning,” says Professor Jennifer Chatman, from the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others.”

“It’s about joining the club, a marker of status and inclusion,” says one business executive.

In truth, however, clear and effective communication is a hallmark of good leadership.

“In organisational communications we talk about the need for clarity and authenticity, but using jargon makes people look inauthentic, and having half the room confused doesn’t help in getting your message across,” says Professor Rae Cooper from the University of Sydney Business School.

“It’s not about using the Queen’s English, it’s about speaking clearly and respectfully and saying what we mean.”

Dr Neil James, Executive Director of the Plain English Foundation, agrees. “Say what you mean, and mean what you say,” he says.

Moreover, using buzzwords and jargon impacts on efficiency, says Dr James.

One Australian insurance company, for example, improved its bottom line by $4 million over five years by using good, clear plain English, devoid of buzzwords and jargon.

Then there’s the story of a new employee who attended his first business meeting. In the lift afterwards, he confessed to colleagues that he didn’t understand most of what was discussed. He was shocked to hear that he wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Think how that meeting could have been so much more effective!

Let’s soar above the verbal dribble by cutting back on the jargon and learning to speak with clarity and dignity.

Common Buzzwords or Business Jargon

Phrase                                  Meaning

Core competency                Fundamental strength

Buy-In                                    Agreement on a course of action

Blue sky thinking                 Feasible ideas where there are no constraints

It’s on my radar                    Monitor a situation

Peel the onion                      Examine carefully

Circle back                            Consult and review

Action                                    Do

Drill down                              Investigate

Elevator pitch                       Brief/concise presentation

Helicopter view                    General/overall view

Leverage                               Make the most of …

Over the wall                        Send outside of the company

Granular                                Detailed

For more examples see here.


Using jargon masks real meaning, reduces team efficiency, and ultimately costs businesses money.



What will meeting rooms look like in the future?