The Corporate Jargon that Irks Americans the Most

Monday, 4 January, 2021

Interesting Findings
Corporate Jargon Definitions

Run it up the flagpole! All hands on deck! Quick win!

Corporate jargon is a thing—and everyone seems to use it regardless if they’re fans of it or not. But what does each phrase really mean? Why say “bandwidth” when you can say time? Why say “take it offline” when you could phrase it “let’s discuss this elsewhere”?

We surveyed 1,000 adults on their use of office idioms. Some jargon, like “big picture,” are used by just about everyone. Others, like “boil an ocean” and “I’ll ping you” get under peoples’ skin. Read on to see which office jargon rolls off the tongue the most, and which sayings people think should stop being a thing altogether.

Interesting Findings

  • The term “analysis paralysis” is the most unloved office term on our list. The idiom refers to overthinking so much you become debilitated and cannot move forward. “Analysis paralysis” can happen to anyone, but luckily there are ways to mitigate it.
  • “I’ll ping you” almost perfectly epitomizes annoying office jargon, so it’s no surprise that 24% of women aren’t a fan of the word. In fact, women favor every other phrase over that one.
  • 40% of people really get the “big picture.” Not far behind that, 37.5% of workers have a thing for saying “all hands on deck.” The latter refers to a call for more crew members to come to the deck of a ship during a time when they needed—literally—more hands.
  • 40% of both men and women have never heard of the phrase “stack hands.” The term was coined after sport teams who would huddle in a circle, chant, and throw their hands up in the air. The phrase is meant to unify people and remind them that they’re on the same team.
  • Another lesser-known term? “KPIs,” which stands for key performance indicators. At its core, it’s a way to measure success—but it’s not just for the office. Supposedly, the earliest record of KPI use is in China. 3rd century emperors began rating how well the royal family was performing their duties.
  • “Boil an ocean” doesn’t get a lot of love. 73.27% of women and 70.67% of men refrain from using the term. The saying refers to the impossibility of trying to boil the amount of water that makes up an ocean.


  • Men and women share the same top 5 most loved jargon, as well as 4 out of 5 of the least loved jargon. Overall, men have more passionate opinions toward jargon than women. On average, 15.13% of men dog on office jargon, compared to only 11.21% of women.
  • Just because Americans dislike a phrase doesn’t mean they don’t use it. 25.7% of respondents reported that they weren’t head over heels for “analysis paralysis,” yet of those 25.7%, 10.53% still use it often and 17.41% use it sometimes. In other words, around 25% of the people who claimed they weren’t a fan of it still use it.


We surveyed 1,000 men and women aged 18+ via Pollfish on their opinions and usage of common office jargon. From there, we broke down the findings by gender and age, as well as usage and preference.

Corporate jargon defined 

30,000 foot viewTo look at the overall goals and objectives rather than small details.
Action-item A take-away task that needs to be completed in the near future.
All hands on deck All employees are needed to complete a project.
Analysis paralysis Overthinking a situation to the point that nothing actually gets accomplished.
Back-end Essential work that goes into the creation of a product that a customer doesn’t see.
Bandwidth Referring to the amount of time someone has available to spend.
Behind the 8 ball Referring to being in a difficult situation.
Big Picture The ultimate goal or main idea.
Boil an oceanTo take on an impossible project or task.
Bring to the table Referring to the skills or value that someone can bring to your company.
Buy-in Accepting or committing to an idea or course of action.
Change agentA person who is the catalyst for business improvements or innovation. 
Circle back The notion to revisit a topic at a later time. 
Deck Shorthand for a set of PowerPoint presentation slides. 
Deep dive To look at the details of a project closely. 
Disconnect (as a noun)A situation where expectations differ from reality. 
Disruptive Referring to the process of changing existing technology with something new. 
Dot your i’s and cross your t’s To be detail oriented and thorough in your tasks.
Drill down To look further into the matter or get more details.
Go all inTo put all of your energy or resources into something.
Heavy lifting Bearing the burden of the most difficult and time-consuming work on a project.
High level To explain a concept without getting into the small, technical details.
Holistic overview To take into account other external factors that can affect an outcome. 
I’ll ping you Send someone a message using an online messaging system.
I’ll run that up the flagpoleMoving the project on to the next appropriate person for approval. 
Ideate To think of and came up with new ideas.
In the weeds When a task is too hard to accomplish because there are too many problems involved.
KPIs Key Performance Indicators; points used to evaluate the performance of something or someone. 
Learning (as a noun) Knowledge gained from a conversation or past project. 
Leverage Manipulating a situation so someone can control it in their favor. 
Low-Hanging fruitTasks that are easy to accomplish or problems that can be easily solved that provide clear benefits. 
Onboarding Assimilating a new employee into an organization; introducing service to new customers. 
Out-of-the-box An idea that is unusual or new.
Put a pin in it To delay discussion, engagement, or work on a project to another time. 
Quick win Something that can be done quickly that will provide a beneficial outcome. 
Reinvent the wheel To redo an existing process, idea, or way of thinking. 
ROI “Return on Investment” i.e. whether something is worth it. 
Stack handsTo imply that every team member is in it together. 
Sync up To meet with someone and touch base on an idea or topic. 
Take it offline To discuss something with someone in a separate time and place. 
Touch base To meet or talk with something about a specific issue. 
Value-add Benefits of a feature that provides value to customers.
Where/when the rubber meets the road The time or place at which something matters the most.
Wordsmithing To change, edit, or make a play on words. 

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