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8 Buzzwords to Blacklist in Your Workplace Not only are phrases like these overused and misused, they often communicate very little or nothing.

By Thomas Smale Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Adriana Angulo

It has often been said that clear communication is the foundation of a good relationship, and working relationships are no exception.

However, how often do we use buzzwords and phrases that annoy, intimidate or confuse people, perhaps in an attempt to impress them?

Whether it's in an important client meeting, or on the "about" page of your company website, over-generalization and incorrect use of language can leave people with a lesser impression of you than they started with.

Is your conversation littered with phrases such as "get the ball rolling," "it's on my radar" or "on my plate"? Do you frequently use words such as "synergy," "growth hack" or "vertical" without any clarification?

Not only are phrases and buzzwords like these overused and misused, they often communicate very little or nothing. By the time you've combined four to five of these terms into a sentence, it begins to sound like a different language altogether.

Related: Misused Words That Make Smart People Look Dumb

Are you ready to work on your communication skills? Are you ready to turn your back on informal, non-communicative language? Here are buzzwords you should start blacklisting in the workplace.

1. Win-win

What exactly is a win-win? If you ask Google, it's a Tom McCarthy film, a game and a technology outlet in Serbia. Most people probably don't even know that they're actually referring to the second on that list, a "win-win game."

Yes, it does mean what you think it does. A win-win game is a "game" in which everyone profits in some way, shape or form. There is also such thing as a win-win strategy, which basically describes a conflict resolution method that accommodates everyone involved.

When you closely examine the connotation of "win-win" though, you can see that it doesn't necessarily mean that everyone in the deal wins, but rather that everyone involved is appeased.

2. Synergy

Synergy is a great example of a word that basically holds no meaning. It is usually used to refer to multiple components coming together as a whole to create a desired effect. When we say things are working synergistically, we often think of two items moving at the same speed, ideas being fused together to form a better one or two pieces of software complementing each other.

In the workplace, however, synergy is just a throwaway filler word. It's so overused that no one even pays attention to it anymore. Consider blacklisting it for good.

3. No-brainer

The term "no-brainer" has lost all meaning over time thanks to prevalent and contradictory overuse. On the one hand, if something is no-brainer, it might mean that it's easy to do or that it's common sense. On the other hand, people also say no-brainer when they mean that they should have thought of something when they didn't, or to describe an activity where creative thought was not required.

It's time to regain clarity in your communication by eliminating "no-brainer" from your everyday business vocabulary.

4. Outside the box

"Outside the box" has become a redundant buzzword in the workplace. Outside-the-box thinking is basically just creative thinking. When was the last time you went to work without taking your creative brain with you?

There will certainly be times when you need to examine a situation from a different angle. There will be times when you need to see beyond the obvious, to find solutions that may not be immediately apparent. However, you don't need to say "outside-the-box" when you're in the process of developing an unusual or uncommon solution to your problem.

Related: 6 Grammatical Errors That Need to Stop Now

5. Onboarding

Most CEOs and human resources people are quite familiar with the word "onboarding," which is essentially the process of teaching a new employee the skills and knowledge they need to do well in his or her job.

However, the term is non-specific, and therefore redundant. "New employee training" is much more descriptive, and also clearer to those who might be on the outside looking in.

6. Hit the ground running

This phrase is used to describe projects or initiatives that are going to be, or need to be, completed with haste. A team member might say something such as, "We need to hit the ground running with our social media marketing," to get the point across that social media has to be a greater priority in your company if you want to take advantage of it.

However, when was the last time you didn't need to "hit the ground running" with a project? When was the last time you encouraged a team member to "hit the ground slow-walking"? Furthermore, this phrase does not refer to a specific timeline, which is always good to have when we're talking about business.

7. Influencers

These days, we hear about "influencers" all the time. Again, it isn't a very specific term, but it usually refers to people within your industry or in targeted niches that have a lot of influence. As you can see, even the definition isn't terribly clear.

What does the influencer do? What do they have influence over, exactly? In what ways do they influence the industry or niche, and how do you connect with them and leverage their influence in the marketplace?

An influencer could be just about anybody, and have varying levels of impact on an area of business. Be more specific. Describe what a person does and what they have influence over instead.

8. Innovation

It's not that innovation isn't important. For many companies, finding new ways of doing things can lead to breakthroughs in productivity and efficiency, cost-effectiveness and product development. Even so, this buzzword is too broad for the same reasons "outside the box" is. Plus, they virtually mean the same thing -- they refer to creative thinking.

Innovation may not be a given in any company structure, but a profit-minded business is always on the lookout for new ideas and new ways of improving their operations. Don't say innovation. Refer to specific initiatives you are putting in place to improve some aspect of your enterprise.

Final thoughts

A good teacher is someone who can take a complex subject and make it simple, not someone who has all of the jargon and lingo down. If people can't understand what you're saying, what's the point in saying it at all?

Similarly, workplace communication should be straightforward and easy to understand. Work towards developing more clarity and specificity in your interactions.

Related: 5 Things You'll Never Hear From a Successful Entrepreneur

Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010. He has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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