10 Annoying Phrases You Need to Stop Saying at Work if You Want Your Team to Like You

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June 21, 2024 at 3:19PM UTC
In an era when having a high EQ and being socially conscious is all the rage, you'd think everyone in business would be making a large effort to stop talking like robots. 
But unfortunately, given a recent study by OnePoll and Jive Communications, these 40 phrases are continuing to be used by members of hte American workforce — even though 27% of people reported that they tune their colleagues out immediately when they hear them. In fact, 71% of people said they use these phrases mindlessly. 
Keep reading for s a quick way to improve your professional image. We've broken down the study's top 10 annoying phrases and why they're offenders: 

1. Give 110%

Asking someone to "give 110%" isn't just frustrating because you're assuming they didn't already plan to give it their all but also because it's telling them their best effort isn't good enough. Plus, using this phrase over and over dilutes the integrity of all your projects — not everything can be given over-the-top effort all the time. 

2. Think outside the box

This phrase is an overused cliche that also often asks the people around you to grasp at ideas out of thin air. Instead of simply telling someone to "think outside the box," a good leader has a plan and can point them in the right direction of how to think or brainstorm. 

3. Hammer it out

"Hammer it out" doesn't mean much, which can lead to confusion. Do you mean "do the work and pre-planning that's required to complete a project or finish something up?" Just say that. 

4. Heavy lifting

This cliche is frustrating because, like many of its counterparts on this list, it doesn't mean anything. What exact work do you mean will be the 'heavy lifting' on a project? List out the tough tasks you associate with being the most work on a project and assign out (or claim for yourself) the work from there. 

5. Throw them under the bus

In the workplace, we often aren't pushing our colleagues out into a busy road, no matter the perceived slight we're apparently committing. The severity of this phrase — along with its general overuse — makes it frustrating. 

6. Don't count your chickens before they've hatched

This phrase is condescending to whoever it's pointed at — plus, it discourages the risk-taking and confidence often required in a business setting. 

7. Pushing the envelope

"Pushing the envelope" was popularized by test pilots and it has little meaning in day-to-day business. Instead of telling someone "we're pushing the envelope," tell them you're innovating or taking a risk. It adds much more flavor and specificity to what you're trying to say. 

8. Let the cat out of the bag

This age-old saying is tired. Let's all give it a rest. 

9. Let's circle back

I think this one is frustrating to our peers because it's used so often. If you've heard this foggy phrase 10+ times in a meeting, every meeting, for the last few years, it's no wonder it's annoying to you now. You can replace "let's circle back" with a message that you should talk about something at a later date — the more specific about the time and communication channel, the better. 

10. Win-win situation

This phrase is vaguely positive, but adds nothing to the conversation it's placed in. How is the situation good for both parties, exactly? Say that instead.  
Here are the other terms on the study's list: 
  • Blue-sky thinking
  • Boil the ocean
  • Synergy
  • Low-hanging fruit
  • Take it to the next level
  • Barking up the wrong tree
  • Going forward
  • Let's ballpark this
  • Run this up the flagpole
  • Back to square one
  • There's no I in team
  • Back to the drawing board
  • Paradigm shift
  • Elephant in the room
  • Raise the bar
  • Drill down
  • Best thing since sliced bread
  • Deep dive
  • Skin in the game
  • Reach out
  • Touch base
  • Play hardball
  • Don't reinvent the wheel
  • Kept in the loop
  • The bottom line
  • Down the road
  • I'll loop you in
  • Hit the nail on the head
  • ASAP
  • Team player

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