March 16, 2016 Heather James

Corporate Lingo: Don’t Let Buzzwords Dominate Your Vocabulary

Corporate Lingo

By Laura Vandiver, TVG VP of Research & Strategic Insight

As an anthropologist, I am often keenly aware not only of how people behave in various situations, but what they say. Different social groups often have very specific linguistic styles. For instance, take my triathlon club. Unless you are actively training for a triathlon, you probably have no idea what terms like FTP, power meter, pull buoy, bonk, brick, long course, taper or transition mean. You have to be immersed in a social group for some time before its unique vocabulary starts becoming second nature. The same holds true for working at a corporation. Buzzwords, corporate jargon, corporate lingo—whatever you want to call it, employees definitely have a specific way of speaking. Only, in this case, I would urge all of you to avoid using corporate catchphrases. Why? Because it’s gotten ridiculous.

Let me demonstrate. While having lunch with a friend the other day, I noticed a certain very familiar style in the way he was speaking. I believe the words “bandwidth” and “value add” were used. My comment to him was “You come from a corporate lineage, don’t you?” We had a great laugh about it and then discussed the corporate lingo we had heard over the years. I’ve worked for one major corporation-a health care insurance company. The health care industry seems to be one of the worst in terms of indoctrinating its employees with not only obscure medical terminology, but also corporate buzzwords. I actually used to keep a running tally of meaningless corporate jargon in the back of my notebook. Here are a few that you never need to say:

1. Silos

Corporate-speak for “divisions” within the company, or different teams that work separately instead of together. Example: “The IT department and the Prevention department are working in silos. We need to bring those two together.” The first time I heard this term I thought of a grain silo, which I suppose is the point. But it was confusing. Why not just say “Hey, we could get more done if we bring these two teams of people together. Make it so!”

2. Synergies

This term is the opposite of “silos”. It means to create opportunities where different teams work well together. Example: “IT and Prevention are so siloed. We need to create some synergies there.” This one is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Instead, just say: “Let’s work together. Cooperation is good.”

3. Low-hanging fruit

This one means to go after the easiest piece of a project first. Example: “We can use the client’s membership list to recruit for our focus group. That’s our low-hanging fruit.” No, just no. Your clients and their members are not fruit. Instead, you might say “It should be pretty easy to recruit from the client’s membership list. I’ll start there.” Everyone will thank you.

4. Deep dive

A term used often in the research community for taking time to review all the details, as in “Let’s do a deep dive on that report next week.” Since no one is actually going scuba diving at the office anytime soon, let’s just say “Schedule extra time for next week’s meeting so we can discuss the details in the report.”

5. Value proposition

I still get confused when people say this. It basically means the unique aspects of your ideas/products that bring extra value to your customers. Usually verbalized as “value prop” or “What’s the value prop on this product?” Instead, why don’t we just ask “How do we differentiate ourselves from the competition?”

While corporate lingo may be pervasive in your organization, you can fight it! Just start saying what you mean. Because no one wants to break down silos while creating synergies so we can do a deep dive on our value prop.


What’s the funniest or most annoying corporate lingo you’ve come across in the business world? Tweet us @VandiverGroup and let us know! Oh, and TVG can also help you make sure that corporate jargon doesn’t ruin your next speaking engagement or internal marketing piece. Call us at 314-991-4641 or send us an email at


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