Work phrases to not use

The phrases we should stop using at work and meetings (and what to say instead)

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Sophia Ellis
Sep 22, 2017

I think we all have a set of phrases and words we naturally gravitate towards at work, depending on your company culture and communication style. It’s just something you develop over time. Some teams have specific language they use that is beneficial to their productivity and morale. For instance, Nike are famous for their extremely competitive internal communication style, used to empower their employees. That’s all good and well but sometimes, no matter what, we end up using phrases that are actually detrimental to our communication and productivity.

Here are a handful of clichés that need to go and what to replace them with for more direct and productive communication with your team.

For a short preview check this video out!

“We need to boost productivity.”

Yes, of course you do. We all do. But, in reality, this means absolutely nothing. “Productivity” has become such a classic buzzword that almost no email updating your team or meeting can be complete with using the word at least once. Actual productivity should be one of your team’s top concerns. But there are better ways to focus on it and work on it, rather than just repeating this vague phrase as a reminder. When talking about productivity, use concrete details your team will actually remember.

Instead say something specific: “Let’s boost web traffic by 10% this week.” And make sure to provide steps to reach a concrete productivity goal. Productivity is useless if it’s not measurable!

“We’ll circle back to this.”

This is the ultimate procrastination phrase. To communicate in a way that people feel like their questions and concerns are really being answered, avoid this one. The more you use it, the more it sounds like you’re putting off dealing with pressing issues or suppressing thoughts from your team. If people constantly feel like you’re indefinitely putting off what they bring up to you, you’ll start to hear less from them. Address an issue as much as you can immediately, in some capacity. If you can’t fully address something, plan a follow-up with some actionable steps.

Try: “Please send me an email with more detail. When are you free to talk about this?”

“I think…”

This is one we’re all inevitably going to use but – depending on how you use it – it may be giving off a different connotation than you think. Saying “I think” before stating an idea or fact suggests you’re unsure or you don’t trust that what you’re about to say can stand alone. If what you’re saying sounds like a guess on your part, how can you expect others to put their trust in it? If you listen to some of the best leaders speak, you’ll notice they rarely use “I think” at the start of a sentence. Rather, they jump right into what they’re going to tell you – as if it’s fact. Even though it may always not be, speaking with this kind of conviction will get more team members on your side and put their trust in your ideas.

Instead of “I think we should do ___ to boost traffic”, try “___ will help us boost traffic.”

“We need to innovate.”

Here’s another classic buzzword repeated so often that it’s lost meaning entirely, much like “productivity”. Certainly, innovation should be a priority for every team. But what exactly does that mean for your team? If you’re throwing this term around without truly qualifying what innovation looks like, no-one knows what to work towards. Instead, you’re just wasting time in a meeting or lines in an email with another empty phrase. Like productivity, qualify and quantify what it means to innovate if you’re going to talk about it.

Instead, say: “Let’s innovate by finding a faster way to get customers through the onboarding process.”

Communication is a learning game. No two companies are the same when it comes to language and culture. However, these phrases aren’t too helpful anywhere, even though they mean well. But just a few minor changes to the way you communicate can have a huge impact on the way your team members understand and react to you. In turn, this can affect overall productivity and team cohesion later on. Give these suggestions a try and see what I mean.

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