When you tell your colleagues that you need to “circle back” on a “win-win” solution so that you can give the project “110%,” recognize that your coworkers’ eyes have already glazed over and they have tuned your ideas out.
According to a new survey that looked at the communication behaviors of 2,000 U.S. workers, there are words that are so overused they have lost meaning in the workplace. In the poll conducted by OnePoll and Jive Communications, researchers found that too many of us are guilty of reflexively using a cliche at work. Seventy-two percent of American workers said they used these phrases out of habit.
But a word of caution to everyone who wants to “push the envelope” — these cliches do not help your case at work. Six in ten employees admitted that they do not even understand what most of our popular office cliches even mean. In fact, 27% of colleagues said they stop listening to you when they hear you say them.
“These phrases definitely aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. There’s a reason they’re so well-known and exercised within office spaces. However, overuse has diluted the meaning of many phrases,” John Pope, the senior vice president of Jive Communications, said. “If you’re constantly told to give a project 110%, over time it will lose its power and effect.”
The top office cliches
While there are many cliches employees can choose from, there are some we use more often than others. Here are the worst offenders:
- Give it 110%
- Think outside the box
- Hammer it out
- Heavy lifting
- Throw them under the bus
- Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched
- Pushing the envelope
- Let the cat out of the bag
- Let’s circle back
- Win-win situation
The top cliche — “give it 110%” — was particularly annoying, as one in five workers found it eye-roll worthy. Although these phrases may seem harmless to deploy in your meeting, they can be a crutch against saying words that are specific to your situation. Those are the words that carry more weight.
Next time you want to present an innovative idea, don’t preface it by saying the company needs to think outside the box. Just say what the idea is.