Business Words to Abolish in 2008

There is something about walking through the doors of any major┬áthat turns normally well-spoken people into complete idiots. They may tell their kids, “get a coat, it’s going to be cold,” and by the time they get to work, they’ll tell a coworker, “obtain a cloth thermal insulating system, a meteorogical event involving a decrease in the warmth system.”

It’s time to strike these words from our vocabulary and start speaking English again.




This term was coined to replace “employee”. It is supposed to represent that the company is not a hierarchy, but one big happy family where everyone is equal, an associate of their fellow coworker.

Of course, this soon spawned these same companies referring to “leadership” and associates, making sure that people didn’t get TOO comfortable thinking they could walk up to the CEO in the bathroom and tell them what they felt about the decision to acquire ACME industries.

Go back to employee.




This term is used to describe an area or market, as in Apple is a major player in the portable music player space. Like many buzzwords, the problem is that if you take it away, what you’re saying loses nothing.

When you start to talk about “space” in your business writing or on television, I start to wonder about the space between your ears.




When a dumpster company tells me that they’re the leader in sanitation solutions, I start to worry. You collect trash. And frankly, trash has never been a problem because there are 5 or 10 different companies who will pick it up for me. With the exception of not putting my trash can back on the curb accurately, most of them do the same type of work. In recent years I’ve heard about people who offer “copier solutions”, “IT solutions”, “building solutions”, and just about every other type of “solution” you could think of.

Again, you can eliminate the word and not lose the meaning of your sentence.


Customer focused or Consumer Centric


When you hear a company say they’re customer focused or consumer-centric, it may be time to run away. This is something the consumer decides, not the company. The reality is that with a few exceptions, every company strives in some form or fashion to be customer focused. If you’re making something or providing a service they want (either with exceptional prices, innovations, or customer service), you’re focused on the customer.

Even Wal-Mart, where Customer Service followed the giant smiley face out the door and down the road to Target, is customer focused. They provide cheap stuff that almost anyone can afford. As much as I hate going there, I always encounter enough people in one to realize that people still are shopping there.




When someone starts talking about “paradigms”, I immediately think of two dimes, and how little I can buy with them anymore. Can’t even buy a ring out of one of those machines with all the plastic capsules that used to be in front of the grocery store.

Paradigm means example of something. A paradigm shift is usually a change in thinking. Why not use those and not confuse those of us who enjoy pocket change?




Ever been in a meeting and hear “let’s take this offline”? The implication is that in the meeting you’re “online”, and out of the meeting, you’ll be “offlne”. Indeed, meetings are a lot like the time I spend online. I often go on the web for one reason, wind up wasting an hour two on unimportant things, and wind up going offline with little accomplished and just a little bit tired.

But the reality of the situation is that if you’re using “online” as a metaphor, aren’t you just as “online’ in a face to face meeting as you are in a group setting? And why use this stupid term anyway? Why not just say, “let’s discuss this after the meeting?” Yes, it doesn’t sound as high tech or important, but it also keeps someone from wanting to string YOU up on a line.




The word is use. I know utilize sounds fancier, but it isn’t. Nobody will hire you over the guy who says use. So stop using it.


Think Outside The Box


I am not sure who first pointed out (but it probably was Dilbert) that it’s tough to think outside the box when most of us work in cubicles that are shaped like one. Thinking outside the box has the unfortunate problem that its very success ensured its demise. Originally the phrase was a great way of describing trying to do something new and looking for new ways to be better. The problem with the phrase now is that it is a cliche, and cliches are the opposite of thinking outside the box. And if everyone is thinking outside the box, doesn’t that simply become a new box that they’re inside of?

Besides, sometimes doing something different for the sake of doing something different doesn’t work. Just ask Wal-Mart how well their attempt to market more upscale clothing went.

Ramp Up


Another phrase that instantly calls to mind something unintended. When I think of ramp up, my brain immediately goes to Evel Knievel. I think of playing with my Evel Knievel stunt cycle and putting two really cool plastic ramps down for him to jump off of and crash into, breaking several bones and becoming a bitter old man with a bad liver.

Ramping up means to increase. Why not just say increase, and that way, nobody gets hurt.


Leverage our strengths

Again, the word is use. When a 50 dollar word can do the same heavy lifting as a 5 cent word, then you know you’ve over spent. Leverage your dictionary to find out what a word means before you use it.


Human Capital


This phrase is supposed to refer to your employees. Overpaid HR wonks and consultants will tell you that this refers to the strength of your workforce in making you money. The problem is that capital takes the humanity out of your people and turns them into just more stuff your company has.

Actually, this phrase is probably more appropriate than “associate” when explaining how many companies view their employees.

Now go forth and utilize the knowledge you’ve gained here to ramp up your ability to create a paradigm shift in the associate value added space.