20 March 2018
Have you put a record on to see who dances lately? Or solutionised? Love it or loathe it, it looks like office buzzwords are here to stay.
Research by Glassdoor shows that ‘touch base’ and ‘blue-sky thinking’ are two of the 10 most annoying phrases used by workers and managers1, while The Plain English Campaign says many workers use corporate management speak to disguise the fact that they haven’t done their job properly2.
Here are some of the buzzwords and phrases you’ll be hearing in meetings this year along with an explanation of what on earth they mean! Buzzword bingo, anyone?!
Modern office jargon translated
Meaning: a meeting to share ideas at an early stage
We don’t have brainstorming sessions or blue-sky thinking to share ideas anymore – we have idea showers. It’s just the sort of thing they do so ineptly in BBC mockumentary W1A...
Meaning: to have a broad view of the business or a particular issue
The theory is that in a helicopter you get a great overview of everything beneath you. So if a manager wants a helicopter view, they’re not expecting you to take flight. They’re really asking for the bigger picture. But to make more sense, they could just replace the word helicopter with ‘broad’. And it would save them three extra syllables.
Not enough bandwidth
Meaning: too busy to take on additional tasks
Used in the right context, bandwidth is a measure of how much data can be transmitted. But in the hands of today’s businessfolk, it’s a buzzword for how pushed for time they are. “I just don’t have the bandwidth to take on that job.” A similar phrase for lacking free time is ‘zero cycles’. You can even join the two: "It’s a matter of bandwidth. I have zero cycles for this." Eh?
Put a record on and see who dances
Meaning: try it out and see what happens
Ever been told to “put a record on and see who dances”? Let’s hope you didn’t take it too literally and brought in your vinyl collection to play in the office. This phrase is the 2018 equivalent of ‘run it up the flagpole’. Enough said.
Meaning: solve a problem
We’ve been synergising for years, and now we’re expected to solutionise as well. It’s business-speak for solving problems, as in: “Let’s solutionise this problem over drinks.” In the real world, solutionise actually refers to heating metal. In the business world, there’s certainly hot air involved…
Boil the ocean
Meaning: attempting to do the impossible
This phrase conjures up images of high drama on the seas. But it’s not that theatrical – it means trying to do something with too broad a scope, or wasting time on a project that’s never going to be successful.
Meaning: something that is state-of-the-art
Cutting edge just won’t cut it anymore in modern offices. The blade has been severely blunted. Bleeding edge describes something that is new and exciting but can be risky.
In my wheelhouse
Meaning: being within your area of competency
This is one of the latest phrases that has begun creeping into UK offices. Wheelhouses are the small enclosed parts of a bridge that used to hold the ship's steering wheel." So ‘in someone's wheelhouse’ refers to a task that matches their abilities, like taking the helm of a ship is within a captain's abilities. Nothing to do with hamsters then.