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Corporate jargon: The top 10 (most annoying?) buzzwords

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

Tim Tinakorn, director of product, works at his desk at their offices in Hollywood, Calif., Tuesday, October 16, 2012.

Have you "synergized" lately? Built up your "personal brand"?  Took something "offline"?

If so, you are like millions around the world who use popular corporate buzzwords every day to get a point across. We've got a list of the top 10 most common, below. But first, an explanation.

"Everyone who's a cubicle farmer is eventually going to use some office speak," said Emma Green, who wrote about the history of office speak for The Atlantic.

Green says office speak comes from all around the world, and the phrases usually come from the top-down.

"Different industries had their own office words that they brought... Over time that's sort of evolved into a 'self-help' version of these kinds of office words," Green said citing books such as "7 Habits of Highly Effective People," which introduced these buzzwords to individuals trying to promote their personal brand.

Green said office speak is a way to signal a corporate tribe they're a part of and find meaning in their own work life.

"It's indicative of just how essential all of this language is to our everyday lives," Green said. "It's a way of talking to other people at work; it's a way of making sense of our work lives."

Here are some of the more popular words thrown around offices today:

  1. Run it up the flagpole: To involve bosses and/or management in a decision-making process.
  2. Ideation: The ability to come up with effective new ideas.
  3. Disrupt: New technologies that are powerful enough to change the way an entire industry or area works.
  4. Low-hanging fruit: Challenges that are easy to identify and resolve.
  5. Work-life balance: Creating time to both fully engage in work, as well as making adequate time to handle personal responsibilities.
  6. Unplug: An action used to increase work-life balance by stepping away from work (and in a sense, "unplugging" from the phone or computer linked to work information).
  7. Vision statement: An explanation of what someone or a company would like to accomplish in the future.
  8. Bleeding edge: On the very edge of the "cutting edge."
  9. Let's not boil the ocean: A phrase used to discourage a waste of time or resources.
  10. Emotional leakage: Allowing anger, disappointment, etc. from one individual to transfer to another.

Have a favorite — or most-loathed — corporate buzzword? "Sync up" and share with us on our Facebook page or in the comments below.


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