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10 phrases from workplace meetings that still make you shudder

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

Even though you've been mostly back in online rather than face to face meetings for the last few weeks, there's no escaping the corporate lexicon that some of your co-workers insist on throwing at you. Whilst the rise of buzzword bingo has given some of these a post-ironic, 'hey, we all know this is bullshit' kind of veneer, they remain confusing, utterly devoid of meaning, and annoying as hell:

1. Mission critical

Was your boss involved in the Apollo space programme? Or did they work with Tom Cruise on a popular film franchise? No? Then please avoid using this phrase at all costs. Nobody is being fooled that your bi-annual team away-day at the Surbiton Travelodge is really of any importance, even if this phrase is constantly banded around to make it seem like it is. And no, we are not at Defcon1.

2. Need for more 'granularity'

Someone needs a bit more detail on an issue, but they want to get across the importance of this by conjuring up images of minerals, sugar, and perhaps rock formations. No, it doesn't work for me either.

3. Bottom out

A highly confusing metaphor. Basically, when we get to the end of this process, everyone will undress and waggle their rear ends in celebration at another great achievement?

4. Lock in some time

Does your boss have experience as a prison guard, safe-keeper of the vaults in a bank, or as a locksmith. No? Thought not. Play along by telling them that the padlocks are on for you for the next 2 weeks, and they'll need to spray some WD40 on your outlook calendar if they want to find a slot with you next month.

5. The new normal

The pandemic buzzword par excellence. Your boss is using this to get across just how fundamentally the COVID 19 crisis has wreaked havoc on everything we thought we knew about work in the 21st century. Either that, or they saw the phrase being used some Silicon Valley 'thought leader' on Twitter and thought they'd throw it in as part of their usual Monday 'word salad' with you guys.

6. Pivot

Until 5 years ago, this verb was confined to judges comments on Strictly Come Dancing, and your school woodworking classes. Now it is seemingly ubiquitous to mean even the slightest change of direction on absolutely anything. Anyone who hears is immediately raising their middle finger in their imagination and saying 'pivot on this'.

7 Do a Deep dive

Originally designed to invoke the idea of a deep sea diver spending ages excavating sponges off the Cretan coast, your boss now routinely uses this when they want you to put do a rudimentary google search. And no, they really don't want you to go beyond the results that come up on the first page. Concentrate on the 'low hanging fruits'.

8. Everything is 'in play'

Does anyone in the organisation you work for have experience of participation in top-level sports activities, preferably as a referee or commentator? No? Then they have absolutely no right to use this phrase to describe how a number of scenarios are still possible in relation to the crappy sales launch of that new spiral wiring for exercise books that your company is planning. Ditto with the use of the phrase 'arena of combat' to describe disagreements over pricing, unless they have come back from a full military campaign in Afghanistan.

9. Circle back

Whenever this is mentioned it brings up in your mind some county lines TV drama, where a drug dealer's 12 year old delivery cyclist comes past, giving a punter a quick glance, before circling back round and completing the quick transaction. But you also get it mixed up with the image of a premiership footballer 'wheeling away' excitedly after scoring a goal. Just to be clear, Michael from Accounts doesn't mean either of these when he says it in your meeting. Instead he means he's closing off discussion with a vague suggestion that it will be picked up later - once he's retrieved it from the long grass he's just kicked it into.

10 Take something offline

Ah, the nostalgic feeling this invokes when you think of how you used to use it in face-to-face meetings to talk about how you would follow up with someone more informally afterwards. Doing anything offline now would be a bloody godsend. If you say this in an online meeting, you should fully expect co-workers to turn up outside your door with a four-pack of Fosters and a take away, and a recommendation of a good Netflix box-set that you can watch together. Serves you right.

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