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Decoded: Business Clichés

In the office of any company in any industry, you will continuously hear these vague, meaningless terms and phrases used predominantly by management, in a feeble attempt to sound superior. It takes years to interpret and comprehend the meanings of all these terms.

To give you an advantage over everyone else, we have assembled a list of the most used business clichés that you will hear in the workplace.  Although the terms may be worthless, it is nonetheless you master them, so that you can rise to the top as quick as possible. Here are the top 35 clichés heard in and around the office:

It's a paradigm shift – I don't know what's going on in our business. But we're not making as much money as we used to.

We're data-driven – We try not to make decisions by the seat of our pants. When possible, we try to base them in facts.

We need to wrap our heads around this – Gosh, I never thought of that. We need to discuss that…

It's a win-win – Hey, we both get something out of this (even though I'm really trying to get the best from you)

ROI – Look at me, I'm very financially-minded, even if I never took any finance classes in school

Let's blue sky this/let's ballpark this – Let's shoot around a bunch of ideas since we have no clue what to do

I'm a bit of a visionary – I'm a bit of an egomaniac and narcissist

I'm a team player/we only hire team players – I hope everyone on the team thinks this is a meritocracy, even though I'm the dictator in charge

Let's circle back to that/Let's put that in the parking lot/let's touch base on that later/let's take this off-line – Shut up and let's go back to what I was talking about

We think outside the box here/color outside the lines – We wouldn't know about how to do something innovative if it came up to us and bit us in the behind

I/we/you don't have the bandwidth – Since we cut 60% of our headcount, we're all doing the job of 3 people, so we're all burned out

This is where the rubber meets the road – Don't screw up

Net net/the net of it is/when you net it out – I never studied finance or accounting but I sound like someone who can make money if I keep talking about another word for profit

We'll go back and sharpen our pencils – We'll go back and offer you the same for 20% less in hopes you'll buy it before the end of the quarter

It's like the book “Crossing the Chasm”/”Blue Ocean”/”Good To Great” / “Tipping Point” / “Outliers” – I've never read any of these books but I sound literate if I quote from them. And besides, you cretins probably never read them either to call me out on it

Let's right-size it – Let's fire a bunch of people

It's next-gen/turn-key/plug-and-play – I want it to sound so technical that you'll just buy it without asking me any questions

We need to manage the optics of this – How can we lie about this in a way people will believe?

This is creative destruction – I've never read Joseph Schumpeter but our core business is getting killed so it's your responsibility to come up with a new product the market will buy

We don't have enough boots on the ground – I don't want to be fired for this disastrous product/country launch, so I'm going to sound tough referring to the military and say I don't have enough resources

By way of housekeeping – This makes the boring stuff I'm about to say sound more official

That's the $64,000 question (sometimes, due to inflation, people will denominate this cliche in millions or billions of dollars) – I don't know either

Let's square the circle – I'm someone who can unify two team members' views and sound important

It's our cash cow/protect/milk the cash cow – If that business goes south, we're all out of a job

Who's going to step up to the plate? – One of you is going to do this and it's not going to be me

We're eating our own dog food – It sounds gross but we seem like honest folks if we do this.

We need to monetize/strategize/analyze/incentivize – When in doubt, stick “-ize” on the end of a word and say we've got to do this and 9 out of 10 times, it will sound action-oriented.

We did a Five Forces/SWOT analysis/Value Chain analysis – We didn't really do any of that, but none of you probably even remember Michael Porter, so what the heck

It was a perfect storm – We really screwed up but we're going to blame a bunch of factors that are out of our hands (especially weather)

At the end of the day… – OK, enough talking back and forth, we're going to do what I want to do

Who's got the 'R'? [i.e., responsibility to do what we just spent 20 minutes talking about aimlessly] – If I ask the question, it won't be assigned to me

Let's put lipstick on this pig – Plug your nose

I'm putting a stake in the ground here… – I'm a leader, simply because I'm using this cliche

Our visibility into the quarter is a little fuzzy – Sales just fell off a cliff

That's not our core competency/we're sticking to our knitting – We're just glad we're making money in one business, because we'd have no clue how to get into any other business

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Ryan Babikian

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