Every generation gets its own clichés.
For our grandparents and parents, it was things like "run it up the flagpole" and "think outside the box." But in the last few years, it feels like we've added an entire new lexicon of hackneyed clichés to our business language.
Some of them started as fresh new phrases--but they were adapted and copied and ripped off until they became so commonplace as to be meaningless.
So, I asked business leaders and entrepreneurs for the ones that make them cringe the most--and got more than 100 great examples. Here are 17 of the worst offenders.
We'll share more in a later column. You can also let us know your own worst nominees in the comments.
1. Thought leader
"I don't know any high-level person anywhere who isn't described as a 'thought-leader.' Just having thoughts doesn't make you a thought leader."
--Amanda Ponzar, chief marketing officer at Community Health Charities
"People use this term to talk about their stepped-up game or their freelance work ('side hustle'). Why can't they just say that? Or how about, 'I am learning a new field...in addition to my full-time position'?"
--Jeffrey Soto, managing content editor, Katie Wagner Social Media
3. Come to Jesus
"'We need to have a come to Jesus meeting with him.' Really? It's that intense?"
--Chris White, CEO of Shinesty
"I get it. Seth Godin's got this book called Tribes. And all of his books are amazing. But now, like any word that turns into jargon, it's started to lose its meaning."
--Rachel Jordan, founder of 929 Marketing
5. Take it offline
"It means let's talk about this after. I think people should just say that!"
--RaShea Drake, B2B Analyst, Verizon Business
"I'm from Africa, and every now and then you get a tech website reporting on how a new startup is 'disrupting' a particular industry in Africa. Funny thing is, most of these companies just want to keep raising rounds till their companies are no more."
--Daniel Bamigboye, Firebrick Digital
"Using 'rockstar' to describe a tech professional drives me crazy. Are sunglasses mandatory? Do they throw their PC through the window before signing autographs?"
--Richard Howe, UX Designer, Colour Rich
"He/she is a rockstar-ninja (fill in the blank). I don't want to hire rockstars. They are egotistical and spoiled. As far as ninjas, I am not looking for silent employees. I want great communicators."
--Sarah Johnson, public relations specialist, Fit Small Business
"People use it to mean the person is unavailable or difficult to reach. But it doesn't mean that. It's about expenses you have to pay yourself."
--Gary Romano, president and CEO, Civitas Strategies
10. Low hanging fruit
"I personally hate this term. It undervalues the effort behind a task and makes whoever is working on it not give their best (since it's just low hanging fruit and should be easy). Every job deserves your best effort."
--Jay Labelle, owner of The Cover Guy
11. Swim lane
"I personally dislike the concept of the 'swim lane.' It's reductive, and undermines a sense of shared responsibility within the organization. Nothing interesting would ever happen if everyone just stuck to their lanes."
--Erin Fisher, Dotted Line Communications
"The marketing phrase that companies use that drives me the most crazy is best-in-class. As soon as I hear it, I assume the exact opposite."
--Leslie Osman, vice-president of marketing and communication at Park Bank
13. Girl Boss
"I love that fellow females are excited about their power in the workplace, but enough with the #GirlBoss already--we don't hear men going around saying they're a Boy Boss now, do we?"
--Amanda Duff, founder, Duff PR
14. Open the kimono
"In other business environments, this may sound somewhat harmless. However, at Adam & Eve, this phrase takes on a whole new meaning and even makes us feel a bit uncomfortable."
--David Keegan, general manager of Adam & Eve Franchise Corp.
"'Let's regroup': Nobody wants to deal with this right now, so let's delay the pain and hope it goes away."
--Brooke Niemiec, chief marketing officer, Elicit
16. Change agent
"I certainly don't mind people using this expression when they're talking about Martin Luther King Jr., but when it's consistently applied to eighth-tier talents who once gave a TED Talk, it's annoying."
--Shlomo Z. Bregman, founder, Bregman Success
"This line from a Saturday Night Live skit has now has made it into the boardroom. It's annoying as hell from a mature executive. So very sorry someone said something that disagreed with you!"
--Jonathan Kowit, chief marketing officer, Centricity
What do you think? Disagree with some of these, or have some others you can't believe we didn't include? Let us know in the comments.