Brits baffled by buzzwords

Millions of British workers are baffled by office jargon - with phrases such as ‘helicopter view’, ‘strategic staircase’ and ‘drilling down’ causing widespread confusion, a study has revealed.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 27th December 2015, 5:00 am
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No Caption ABCDE

One in five has admitted to sitting through an entire meeting without knowing what on earth their bosses were talking about.

The same ratio of workers said they are often party to telephone calls in which clients pepper their conversation with so much jargon they completely lose the meaning of the conversation.

‘Blue sky thinking’, ‘touch base offline’ and ‘game changer’ are among the most annoying phrases used in British workplaces, according to a new study by working animal charity SPANA.

Researchers polling 2,000 office workers found that many can’t stand to hear cheesy phrases such as ‘it’s on my radar’, ‘peel the onion’ and ‘reach out’.

Indeed, seven in 10 workers admit they completely switch off if their boss starts saying things like ‘think outside the box’ or ‘strategic staircase’, while four in 10 are often completely baffled by their boss, and don’t understand a word they are saying.

Other ‘management speak’ guaranteed to confuse employees includes references to ‘low hanging fruit’, ‘a thought shower’ or the ‘helicopter view’.

But despite being confused most of the time when the boss is spouting jargon, 15 per cent of workers admit they sometime throw in phrases like ‘it’s not rocket science’ and ‘run this up the flagpole’ just to sound like they know what they’re talking about.

Jeremy Hulme, chief executive of SPANA, which provides free veterinary treatment to working animals in developing countries throughout the world, said: “We conducted this tongue-in-cheek survey to find out what bothers British workers and it’s clear that office jargon is a source of annoyance and confusion in workplaces up and down the country.

“If you’ve ever sat in a meeting wondering what on earth colleagues are talking about, it seems you’re not the only one.

“However, although office language can be an irritating part of working life, these sorts of problems seem minor compared to the tough working conditions endured by working animals in developing countries.

“These animals often doing back-breaking, dangerous work with little rest and no holidays or retirement at the end of it. That’s why they desperately need our support.”

The study shows a quarter of office workers have been guilty of trying to weave as many office-speak phrases into a business meeting as possible, just to pass the time.

Which means that in offices up and down the country workers are shouting out sayings such as ‘cracking the whip!’, ‘win/win!’ and ‘no brainer!’

Just under a third of people admit they’ve had to look up the meaning of certain phrases used by another colleague following a conversation with them.

Common confusing jargon includes ‘hot desking’ which means sharing desks with other colleagues, ‘action that’ which means put into practice and ‘look under the bonnet’ which essentially requires an analysis of the situation.

Seven in 10 people believe those who use ‘office lingo’ are just trying to be something they’re not, and 74 per cent consider this type of talk in the workplace to be a pointless irritation.

A quarter of workers feel ashamed if they catch themselves using phrasing such as ‘close of play’, ‘bring to the table’ or ‘hit the ground running’.

While a fifth of workers say meaningless lingo such as ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ and ‘dot the I’s and cross the t’s’ makes them enjoy their jobs less.


1. Blue sky thinking - empty thinking without influence

2. Think outside the box - think creatively

3. Touch base offline - lets meet and talk

4. Close of play - end of the day

5. Going forward - look ahead

6. No brainer - so obvious

7. Action that - put into practice

8. Drill down - investigate thoroughly

9. Thought shower - brainstorm

10. Flogging a dead horse - waste your efforts

11. Hot desking - sharing several desks with colleagues

12. Heads up - notification

13. It’s on my radar - I’m considering it

14. Joined up thinking - thinking about all the facts

15. Bring to the table - contribution to the group

16. Punch a puppy - do something detestable but good for the business

17. Run this up the flagpole - try it out

18. Cracking the whip - use your authority to make someone work better

19. Moving the goalposts - change criteria

20. EOP - end of play

21. Working fingers to the bone - working very hard

22. Game changer - fundamental shift

23. It’s not rocket science - it’s not difficult

24. Hit the ground running - start work quickly

25. Ping - get back to

26. Low hanging fruit - easy win business

27. Singing from the same hymn sheet - all on the same page

28. Strategic staircase - business plan

29. Park something - hold an idea

30. Benchmark - point of reference

31. COB - close of business

32. Reach out - contact

33. Re-inventing the wheel - steal the idea from someone else

34. Dot the I’s and cross the t’s - pay attention

35. Best practice - most effective way

36. Al Desko - lunch at the desk

37. Backburner - de-prioritise

38. Pick it up and run with it - move ahead with an idea

39. Play hardball - act forcefully

40. This idea has legs - good idea

41. Synergy - two things work together

42. I’m swamped - busy

43. It’s a win / win - good for both sides

44. Look under the bonnet - analyse the situation

45. Quick and dirty - quick solution

46. Peel the onion - examine the problem

47. Out of the loop - not involved in the decision

48. Wow factor - amazing

49. Helicopter view - broad view of the business

50. Elevator pitch - brief presentation