“You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends.” — Crash Davis, “Bull Durham”
Looks like the sports world isn’t the only place that ol’ Crash has been giving pointers.
According to the folks at Accountemps, “The workplace is overwrought with clichés, buzzwords and industry jargon.”
And with everyone tossing around the term(s) of the moment, “disconnect” can’t be far behind.
“When business or industry terms become overused, people stop paying attention to them,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps. “The best communicators use clear and straightforward language that directly illustrates their points.”
Crash Davis: Write this down: “We gotta play it one day at a time.”
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play … it’s pretty boring.
Crash Davis: ‘Course it’s boring, that’s the point. Write it down.
Accountemps asked 150 senior executives from the nation’s 1,000 largest companies, “What is the most annoying or overused phrase or buzzword in the workplace today?”
And while my favorite business cliché didn’t place among the most annoying, there are a few on the list that I’d be glad to vote in favor of banning:
- Leverage: As in, “We intend to leverage our investment in IT infrastructure across multiple business units to drive profits.”
- Reach out: As in, “Remember to reach out to customers impacted by the change.”
- It is what it is: As in, “The server is down today, and clients are irate. It is what it is.”
- Viral: As in, “Our video has gone viral.”
- Game changer: As in, “Transitioning from products to solutions was a game changer for our company.”
- Disconnect: As in, “There is a disconnect between what the consumer wants and what the product provides.”
- Value-add: As in, “We have to evaluate the value-add of this activity before we spend more on it.”
- Circle back: As in, “I’m heading out of the office now, but I will circle back with you later.”
- Socialize: As in, “We need to socialize this concept with our key stakeholders.”
- Interface: As in, “My job requires me to interface with all levels of the organization.”
- Cutting edge: As in, “Our cutting-edge technology gives us a competitive advantage.”
Clubhouse reporter: So how does it feel to get your first professional win?
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: It feels out there. I mean, it’s a major rush. I mean, it feels radical in kind of a tubular sort of way, but most of all, it feels out there.
Crash Davis: Hopeless. This is utterly (freakin’) hopeless.
But not as hopeless as hoping that some buzz words and phrases had gone to cliché heaven.
Accountemps conducted a similar survey during 2004, and the following “Hall-of-Fame” inductees were cited both then and now:
- At the end of the day
- Synergy (Ah, there’s the bane of my business existence.)
- Think outside the box
- On the same page
Larry: Excuse me, but what the hell’s going on out here?
Crash Davis: Well, Nuke’s scared because his eyelids are jammed and his old man’s here. We need a live … is it a live rooster? … We need a live rooster to take the curse off Jose’s glove and nobody seems to know what to get Millie or Jimmy for their wedding present. … Is that about right? We’re dealing with a lot of (stuff).
Larry: OK, well, uh … candlesticks always make a nice gift, and uh, maybe you could find out where she’s registered and maybe a place-setting or maybe a silverware pattern. OK, let’s get two! Go get ’em.
Ah, were the problems facing business today only that easy to remedy. But alas, they are not.
Which is probably why some responses to the current survey suggest executives might be suffering from “recession fatigue”:
- Do more with less
- Gloom and doom
- Pay freeze
So, what’s a suit to do?
“Nearly everyone is guilty of using buzzwords from time to time, but professionals are evaluated increasingly on their ability to communicate,” Messmer said. “Avoiding overused terms, particularly in formal communication, can help workers effectively convey their messages.”
Which brings to mind the KISS cliché: Keep it simple, stupid.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: A good friend of mine used to say, “This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.” Think about that for a while.
Well said, Meat.
Mike Boyd is editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Mike.Boyd@csbj.com or 329-5206.