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How to Avoid Meaningless Office Jargon

Since middle and senior managers are the most likely to employ office jargon or “management speak", it seems inevitable that those in secretarial or PA jobs could be most exposed to this irritating habit. 

We PA’s and secretaries do not want to be told to “get our ducks in a row”; we know we need to be organised and there’s no need to talk to us like 5 year olds at bath time. If you want to “touch base with us offline”, please just ask us to meet and talk (preferably over a coffee). “Reaching out to us” makes us roll our eyes and switch off; just tell us you have a problem with something we have done.

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A survey last year by the Institute of Leadership and Management polled more than 2000 managers to discover the pet hates of office workers. The survey revealed that management speak is used in 64% of offices and that the top three most overused pieces of jargon included: 

  • "Thinking outside the box"  
  • “Going forward"  and 
  • “Let's touch base”.

Why do companies continue to use office jargon when it is seen by staff as a way of making a job sound bigger than it is, or even worse, disguising the fact that you haven’t done your job properly? The reason may be that we seek a concise single phrase to describe a complex idea. In a world where we now communicate in two minute soundbites or 140 characters it is tempting to use jargon to try and explain complex information. However, if your audience switches off the minute it hears management speak, your message will be lost. 

 RMS Recruitment offers its advice on avoiding Office Jargon:

  • Learn the art of storytelling. If relatively boring information can be crafted into a story, your audience will listen. 
  • Be concise. If you can’t explain your idea in 50 words, you don’t understand it well enough.
  • Use visual metaphors to help your audience attach meaning to an unfamiliar concept with a picture of something that is familiar.  
  • Ask yourself whether your message passes the 6 or 60 test. Could a 6 year old understand your message as well as a 60 year old? 

The next time your boss asks you to “reach out”, "circle back” or “give a ballpark figure”,  please tweet us your best examples of Meaningless Office Jargon at


The 13 Worst Office Jargon Phrases Staff Love to Hate, Guardian Careers online

Most Annoying Business Jargon, Forbes

6 Ways to Clearly Communicate Complex Information, The FastTrack


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