Workplace jargons: a glossary of business babble

Office jargon is so widespread many people no longer realise they’re using it. Here are some euphemisms designed to make everyone look clever, or blameless, or in control.

Office jargon is so widespread many people no longer realise they’re using it. Here are some euphemisms designed to make everyone look clever, or blameless, or in control.

Bandwidth – the capacity to work. If you're overworked, you have no bandwidth left.

Best of breed – just means best, obviously, but adds the breed for emphasis.

Big hairy audacious goal, or simply Bhag – an highly ambitious, bold business vision. (See "demised" for what happens if you fail to meet your Bhag).

Bio-break – taking time out to visit the lavatory.

Boil the ocean – can mean to waste time or to take bold action that could produce a game-changing solution

Demise – getting the sack. This is an unusual euphemism because it's even worse than the word it is masking. After all, to most people, dying is still worse than losing your job.

Drinking the Kool-Aid – according to Forbes magazine, a reference to the 1978 Jonestown Massacre in Guyana, in which more than 900 followers of the cult leader Jim Jones apparently committed suicide. Meaning to place blind faith in what you're told. Forbes declared this the 2012 winner of its Jargon Madness competition.

Ecosystem - a pretentious word that encompasses designers, manufacturers, distributors and customers in an industry.

Give 110 per cent - Not physically possible, but pleases the bosses.

Heads-up – another military term meaning to tell something to all the "troops" in your office.

Hit the ground running – to be well prepared and able to start quickly.

Imagineering – a fusion of "to imagine" and "to engineer". If you got it wrong the first time, you can do some re-imagineering.

Impact – yet another term that was perfectly happy as a noun before the corporate fraternity hijacked it and turned it into a verb. Sounds more punchy than affect; "This will impact our rivals' sales."

Open the kimono – to reveal information about your company with a possible business partner.

Peel the onion – a form of deep-diving. To examine a problem by going down one layer at a time. According to Forbes magazine, which polls readers to find the most annoying business jargon, "this over-used expression brings tears to the eye".

Prepone – to do the opposite of postponing, ie to bring something forward.

Punch the puppy – to take unpopular action for the greater good of the company. An updated, non-lethal version of the term shoot the puppy.

Swat Team – another example of office machismo, referring to experts in suits assembled not to abseil down the building and smash through the window but to solve a problem – or seize an opportunity.

Synergise – to cooperate in a way that enhances performance.

Take offline – an annoying term meaning to talk about something in private or later.

Workshop – also being used as a verb these days. It's a training session.

Zero cycles – if you have zero cycles for something, it means you don't have a window to deal with it.

Sources: Author Steven Poole, Forbes magazine

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