outside the boxA few weeks ago, Steve Boese posted an interesting question on his Facebook wall. He wanted to hear the most annoying business speak out there. Of course, everyone chimed in with his or her most hated phrase until someone (me) asked the obvious question.

“Steve,” said I. ” Are you using this for blog fodder?”

“Nope, it’s all yours,” says Steve, who works at Oracle and has a fantastic blog you should read.

So I’m taking it. It’s not scientific and I didn’t take a poll, these just come from my own experience. My hope is that it will make you a better business person because people won’t cringe when they speak to you. In no particular order, here are the most annoying phrases in…well, the world!

 5. It is what it is.

Well, of course it is what it is. People say this when they have no way of effecting change. They say it to shut you (me) up and they say it because it’s a somehow suitably appropriate way to end a conversation. It’s horrible and obvious. If you say it more than once a week, you need to read a book. Exception: if you are 90 and wise.

4. Think outside the box.

When a fast food chain has parodied your business speak, it’s time to shelve it. Think outside the box has become the very thing it claims not to be. Thinking outside the box is totally in the box. Everyone urges you to think outside the box. Outside the box is incredibly crowded and not tremendously insightful anyway. I say, get back in your comfortable box and stay there, where it’s quiet and you can actually think.

3. At the end of the day….

This one was my personal selection. People say this so often it comes out like “athendoftheday” which of course, is complete gibberish. WHY ARE YOU SPEAKING GIBBERISH PEOPLE? I could get all existential and talk about how units of time are now more valuable that ever and to reduce them to a bumper sticker is invalidating what is our only non-renewable resource as knowledge workers, but nah….it’s just overused. Bonus phrase: When all is said and done.

2. Granular.

Shut up. JUST SHUT UP. You don’t understand what you are talking about. Now, some of you may hate this article and go back through my writing with a fine tooth comb, and I guarantee that you will find that I have, at times, used the word granular. But, I have reformed and you should to. When you are comparing your work to sand, you need to find a new line of work.

1. Hard Stop

This earns the number one spot because it inspired the thread that Boese built. Hard stop is ridiculous because people 1) rarely mean it; 2) hardly ever respect it and 3) mostly use it to make it sound like they have a super important deal to seal but they actually have to have their dog de-wormed or something.

Have an overused, tired, sad crusty old business phrase you want to share?

Out with it.

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