Marlys Harris recently wrote an article on popular phrases that should be avoided in the workplace. I agree that some of them must go (such as “going offline” to discuss a matter in-person), while others, although overused (“touching base” with a co-worker) can stay. It’s a matter of personal preference, after all. Like baby names, many of these phrases fade in and out of public favor (I remember when “proactive” was an especially popular term.) My only objection to using this type of jargon is simple: a person’s choice of language, especially in a business setting, should be truthful, accurate and easily understood. That said, some of these phrases are too vague or confusing to be used:
“In transition”: I hear this phrase often from fellow job seekers who are not unemployed, but, as they term it, “in transition.” I wouldn’t recommend this, as it sounds intentionally vague. Aren’t we all “in transition” in some form or another? Trust me, there is no shame in unemployment. Better to be clear and state the truth: that you’ve been laid-off from your previous employer and are actively new opportunities.
“Turnkey”: The potential for misuse of this buzzword is too great. While it traditionally refers to a system that can be immediately installed and activated – as in, “We need a turnkey solution to our customer service issue” – one co-worker would consistently use it as a verb, such as, “Could you turnkey that file to me this afternoon?” or “I’ll turnkey those meeting minutes to you after lunch.”
“Sharpen the pencil”: I’ve been debating this phrase with a friend for awhile now. I’ve always understood this phrase to be used in negotiations, in which “sharpening the pencil” refers to making a better offer. My friend interprets this phrase as concentrating on one’s work. Either way, it’s a phrase too open to interpretation for office use.
“Spare bandwidth”: I’ve never encountered this phrase at work, but apparently it exists as a way to assess one’s time capacity – as in, “Do you have any spare bandwidth to complete this additional task?” If someone asked me this, I would be thoroughly confused. Please, don’t do this to your co-workers. “Do you have any spare time?” is far easier to answer.
Need additional clarification? Check out The Office Life’s comprehensive Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary.