Business Cliches: Let’s Think Outside The Box

Every industry, organization, team and group is filled with them and making fun is just part of the juvenile reality helping us get through each day.  I mean seriously, we all grow up – but some part of our comic psyche never does leave high school — especially when it comes to making fun of business cliches.

Even if the boss isn’t like the jackass from ‘Office Space,’ he still has his idiosyncrasies that are worse than nails on a chalkboard.  Today, let’s relish that and snicker, sneer, scoff and even chuckle at a few of the best, shall we?

Let’s Think Outside The Box: These words used to be refreshing as they made us feel like innovation and creativity were truly wanted. In reality, though, it just depends on what size of box you are in. Some people get reined back in with a ‘whoa there, let’s not get too crazy.’ While others get the ‘You’ll give the VP a heart attack if we do that.’

My favorite usage of this comes in a little tidbit that pretty much sums it all up – and yes, this was actually said in a meeting:  “Let’s think outside the box while we’re still in the box …” Ponder that one awhile.

Thrown Under the Bus: Besides being an extremely unseemly phrase to picture, ‘getting thrown under the bus’ or being the one who is doing the throwing is only topped off by a manager saying ‘God forbid, if you should get hit by a bus, does (insert name here) know how to do your job?’

What’s up with management’s infatuation with public transportation? Would the phrase hold less/more weight if you were thrown under a Cadillac, Limousine or a VW Bug?

Let’s just call things as they are, shall we? ‘That witch in accounting blamed someone else, even though she is the culprit.’ Or ‘Sarah, does Jack know how to gather the numbers and interpret the data correctly? We plan on letting you go next week and I just want to make sure my butt’s because I haven’t really thought this one through.’

There. Honesty is always so much better than vehicular homicide.

Reach Out. Why is this phrase that does take a slight amount of physical exertion used when in all reality, a person just plans on emailing another person? Unless you’re manager is overly fond of (and even remembers) the Bell Telephone Systems catchphrase ‘Reach Out and Touch Someone,’ reality dictates you keep your hands to yourself and let your fingers do the talking. The word ‘Contact’ or words ‘Get a hold of’ will certainly suffice.

There are so many things I think of when someone says ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’  and ‘this is a project we can complete easily and get great results from’ is not the first thing that comes to mind (come on now, you were thinking it, too). This is a cliché used for cliché’s sake and it takes less breath and is even more credible to just say … ‘this is easy.’

For those of you who appreciate a good sports metaphor or have never played baseball or softball EVER, maybe ‘hitting it out of the park’ gives you the Babe Ruth feeling you need.

But unless Derek Jeter is waiting for me with a huge hug and a Big Gulp at home plate, I’d much rather hear ‘Good Job’ (and maybe get a bonus) … It rolls off the tongue and sounds sincerely genuine.

And equally as annoying and worth mentioning:

Bring Your ‘A’ Game (come prepared, do your best)

Step Up to the Plate (so-and-so filled in, did more than his part, rose to the occasion)

While I am always happy when the end of the day comes around, hearing a higher-up constantly use the phrase ‘at the end of the day’ to describe what should happen at the end of a process is enough to make me wish it was morning FOREVER (and I hate mornings).  It is so much more fulfilling to hear ‘at the end of this project, if we do our jobs right’ or something of the like.

There are so many more cliches out there! I am going to save the rest for a rant at a later time, but if there is a lesson to be learned, it is that when we are in position to change the use of stupid phrases, let’s tell it straight and not beat around the bush.

Carefully thinking through what needs to be said and actually stopping yourself before you speak is a great way to ensure useless, annoying jargon doesn’t make its way into your corporate speak.

But if you really want to have some fun with it, gather up some friends and get a game of ‘Lingo Bingo’ going. Put the top phrases used all too frequently in your workplace in an online, auto generated bingo card and collect a few bucks a card. Take them into a meeting and see who wins … winner buys the next round at happy hour.

Sure makes those meetings go by faster and it’ll help you remember, when you’re promoted or make it big time, how the little people don’t really appreciate being spoken to in metaphors and clichés.

However, before I sign off, I’d like to share with you my masterpiece of strung-together clichés … (I am thinking of making it into a little ditty, but haven’t worked out the tune yet) …

‘At the end of the day, if you step up to the plate and bring your A game, you’ll hit it out the park and still capitalize on the low-hanging fruit without having to throw anyone under the bus or think outside the box while still sitting inside the box.’

…. Thank you very much …

Oh. PS: Your Action Item or Key Takeaway: leave some comments below with some of your favorite clichés. Let’s have some laughs.

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