Workplace Words: Some Authentic, Some, Not So Much

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Buzzwords in business come and go and right now there is a pretty good crop of good and bad ones circulating among the cubicle world.  Some are whispered in hushed tones next to the refrigerator note that shouts, “This Fridge Will be emptied of every thing except salad dressing every Friday at 3:00!”  Others show up on every page of a 60 page power point deck.   But, at the end of the day, the paradigm for mission critical buzz words is never about the total quality of the thought; it’s about the value add to the value added thought outside the box.


As we enter the new decade, here are some of my favorite words and phrases, and others, that are already mind numbingly repeated although no one knows what they mean.


  • It’s complicated – A perfect phrase to describe everything we now know about business and the universe.  These two (or is it three?) simple words can answer any question: How is your love life?  Worried about your job?  Any luck with your project?  How long do you think you will last in this job?  The perfect answer that connotes substance but probably more than you need to know – It’s complicated.


  • Fair Enough – Could be a comment, could be an answer, could be a question, could be a filler when no one else is saying anything. Could also mean, You are a jerk and know nothing of what you say but now you’ve said it so, “fair enough”. It hits my list since it crops up often and can be used in so many ways.


  • Not so much – A perfect description of life in the workplace that sins on the side of negativity without being offensive.  Can easily be a proper response to questions like:  Hey, do you like your new boss?  Are you thinking about retiring on your 401K these days?  Boy, those people in Washington are doing a good job, huh?


  • Regifting – A phrase that hit all the headlines this year.  It is in the same category of staycation, Maverick and Tea Party Patriots.  When I hear these words they make me ask myself, Do I want to get involved?  Not so much. 

  • I’m Good – The most reassuring phrase out there that too, has many meanings.  When waiting to meet someone, if the receptionist asks if you want a coffee or water, the response can be “I’m good.”  When falling off the roof while cleaning out the gutters and your wife asks if you are ok, the response can be the same, “I’m good.”  After a layoff, this is a desired response.  A close relative to “I’m good” is “I got it.”  Can apply to catching a ball in center field or a way to say, “You don’t have to say anymore, I understand.”   It’s a good phrase to employ to start doing and stop talking which is always a good thing.


  • New Normal – Although on the verge of being over used, this is a worthy phrase to reconcile expectations.  For most of us, the new normal means the same way it used to be, just with a lot less.

  • That Feels About Right – A welcome phrase used in any context but is especially welcome when asking for approval while in the front of a conference room giving a presentation.  It implies “we could probably get more data but that won’t make us any smarter so let’s just go ahead, good work.”

  • Hiking the Appalachian Trail – We have the Governor of South Carolina to thank for this one.  When you hear he or she is out “hiking the Appalachian…” it could mean a missing persons report is being filed;  it could mean there is sex with South Americans involved or it could mean there are a lot of clueless people around who think they are not going to get caught for whatever they are doing.  It is a phrase to avoid when it comes to your own life.

  • In the phrases full of friction category and ones that will go away soon, I hope, some of my favorites are:


Become a Fan – I like being a fan of the San Francisco Giants but I don’t want to be a fan of Edna’s scones.

Skill up– I think this means get smarter and more equipped to do your job.  Is that new?

Fat Content– I don’t need any more reasons to feel guilty.  When referring to an organization, there are better ways to  describe too many people.  Let me enjoy my cheesecake.

Narrow Aperture – I think this means focus on the most important things that need to be done.  This is another phrase that makes me feel guilty for not paying attention in Photography class.


Work today seems be made up of ambiguous victories and nebulous defeats.  Let’s at least make life in 2010 a little more bearable by using words and phrases that make us smile, just a little.


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