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Buzzwords: “We Need to Retire”

Do your eyes glaze over whenever you hear certain words and phrases that have long passed their sell-by date? <emThe Wall Street Journal queried CEOs and its general readers for buzzwords they would like to ban. We invite Briefing readers to volunteer their own.

“Push the envelope”

Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza says people who use the metaphor “have no idea this phrase comes from test pilots.” According to the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minn., World War II test pilots’ job was to push the “envelope,” or the conventionally accepted limits of flight, such as speed, altitude and wind speed.


Tom Monahan, chairman and CEO of CEB, formerly the Corporate Executive Board Company, would ban the word “de-layering” because “it’s a euphemism for laying people off.”

Dynamic resilience

Cesare Mainardi, CEO of Booz & Co., says that as the global economy declined, overuse of this business phrase increased. He says he thinks it is often an excuse for leaders to veer from their strategy and not stay focused on the few key things their companies do that truly create and capture value over time.

Out-of-the-box thinking

“People who refer to out-of-the-box see the box…. People who don’t know the box even exists are the innovative thinkers,” says Lisa Goldenberg, president of Delaware Steel Co. of Pennsylvania.


“On the recruiting side, I’m pretty sick of the term…do you want passion in a typical workplace? Isn’t that a lot like drama?” says Peter Cappelli, director of the Wharton School’s Center for Human Resources.


“Our fetishization of ‘viral’ has reached idol-worshipping proportions, without any reference to whether there is any value to the thing going viral,” says Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post.

Associates and team members

Ron Kaplan, CEO of Trex Co., says the terms are overused ways of describing workers. At Trex, he adds, “we are proud to be employees.”

To the above, various WSJ readers added their own list of overused words and management clichés:

Big Data

“A lot of companies talk about it but not many know what it is,” says Solmaz Gabery.

Going Forward

“Pretentious, imprecise and unnecessary,” says Nancy Settle-Murphy.

Low-Hanging Fruit

“Not one word but a phrase that is used in far too many projects,” says Nate Marshall.


“The new ‘innovative,'” says Doug Jones.


“If everything is epic, then nothing is,” says Cari Ellison.


“No need to make up a word and then overuse it,” says Samantha Wingrove.


“Unnecessary butchering of the word ‘incentive,'” says Clinton Ducas.


“Adds nothing to ‘learning,'” says Jonathan Smithson.

Game Change

“What game and how can I play?” asks David Baum.

Reach Out

“Just say what you mean,” says Doug Clopton.


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