Touching base with those office waffle phrases that drive us mad

The Ulster Herald decided to touch base with people in the local business community to take a helicopter view of how they feel about those annoying and pretentious ‘buzz words’ which have been creeping into offices over the past few years.

While there are many ‘David Brents’ out there, who think that office waffle and jargon is a win-win situation, around Omagh it gets a thumbs down and that is a no brainer.

New research shows that ‘no brainer’ and ‘win-win situation’ are listed among the top ten most common business jargon phrases that drive the average worker mad.

Other phrases sound like they belong on the sports field. They include ‘close of play,’ ‘touch base,’ ‘110 per-cent’ and ‘thinking outside the box.’

The study revealed that 19 per-cent of workers (mainly management) admit to using these clichés in a misguided bid to impress their colleagues or even improve their chances of promotion while 30 per-cent overall admit to using business jargon.

However, when I visited Omagh Enterprise Company recently there seemed to be no appetite for jargon in local offices.

Nick O’Shiel, chief executive of Omagh Enterprise Company, blames the American influence and describes such jargon as “complicating” the English language.

He said, “There is more business jargon used in management situations. It comes from academia in America to the extent that fancy words may be used in business articles written by professors and experts about a particular topic. That percolates down and people use the terms again and they get fashionable. But they are then overused and flogged to death.”

Expressing a dislike for expressions such as ‘going forward’ and ‘thinking outside the box,’ Mr O’Shiel added, “Apart from business there has been a campaign for years to encourage using plain English. Plain English wins over jargon every time. “It is a refection of bad management
and bad communication when it is overused because if they have a room full of people they are trying to train or develop, there is great value in simple plain clear language.”

Sharon Tracey-Collins is a business adviser who is also unimpressed by the use of jargon in an office setting, although she does not dismiss it completely.

“The phrase ‘the bottom line is’ is quite applicable to our business because we would deal with a lot of projections and the ‘bottom line’ is important in a profit and loss situation. We would quite often say ‘the bottom line is’ and that is quite suitable when accounts come into play. Another one is ‘go for it,’ which is actually the name of the start a business programme.

“However there are other phrases that make no sense at all. One that I have often heard people saying is, ‘it’s 110 percent.’

“That is an impossibility so ‘110 per-cent’ is not a good business term. I certainly don’t like that. In the business sense it is much better to use plain English rather than jargon.”

Marcus Isherwood, a former president of the Omagh Chamber of Commerce, is another member of the local business community who is not impressed with buzz words and phrases.

“Thankfully we don’t really get a lot of it here,” he said. “I am familiar with it but I think it is more of a city thing. It is just a different way of saying the same thing but it is really clichéd. I would discourage it as I prefer people who stick to the basics”

So there you have it… at the close of play using jargon talk in local offices is not a win-win situation.

• ‘Touch base’
• ‘Blue sky thinking’
• ‘Taking a helicopter view’
• ‘Thinking outside the box’
• ‘It’s on my radar’
• ‘Close of play’
• ‘It’s a win-win situation’
• ‘Flagging up’
• ‘110 per-cent’
• ‘It’s a no-brainer’