In a world lacking clarity, employees who speak clearly stand out. The words that come out of your mouth in meetings or over email should express a complete idea. Don’t waste time with phrases that don’t tell your coworkers what you really think.

If you’re not sure where to start with cleaning up your language, here are a seven to consider:

Do more with less/Work Smarter.

The problem with this phrase is that at its best, it is vague, but at its worst, it is insulting. If a project is actually being wasteful, meaning some team members are inefficient or lazy, then that needs to be addressed. When less money comes in the door and the first response is to do more with less or work smarter, it cheapens and devalues the work that was done and the team that did it. Instead of just throwing this phrase out when funding is tight, be specific about what your are going to do less of, or what you still want to focus on despite a lack of money. Are you asking people to work unbillable hours with that cliche phrase? Make your argument for what needs to happen and say what you mean.  

At the end of the day.

Which day are we talking about? Close of business end of the day? What about tomorrow? What are you really trying to say with this phrase? You can sound smarter and clearer when you say, “After considering all the aspects of this problem, this is the decision.” Or even a simple adverb like “ultimately” works.

Let’s table this/backburner this.

Everyone nods along to this phrase in a meeting, but the person responsible for the project has no idea how to schedule something “on the backburner.” Where is that backburner and will it ever be used? If you don’t want to address something right now, provide your reasons for not addressing it and give a clear timeframe of when to discuss it again.

Par for the course.

If everyone in your office is a golfer, you can keep this phrase in your vocabulary. However, if you work in a diverse office where there are many non golfers like the rest of us, this phrase is easily confusing to those around you. Just say that something is a “common occurrence.”  

Throw him/her under the bus.

I was fresh out of college and in one of my first jobs when I first heard this phrase being used. Maybe I’m slow, but it took me a while to figure out what was actually being said. Who was the bus? Who was doing the throwing? If someone is acting selfishly and blaming others for a mistake, why do we not just say that? And if they are not doing that, why are we using this phrase? Blame shifting is a pretty serious offense, so this phrase should not get used liberally. If someone is actually naming and blaming someone else for a mistake, then that needs to be addressed…without a cliche.

Think outside the box.

Can we all just agree that we are not in a box anymore? Just ask for new perspectives or different thoughts. The old ideas and actions may or may not have been “in the box” and what is this box that we’re talking about anyway? All you are asking for is a fresh perspective, so ask for that.

Limited bandwidth.

Perhaps an IT department started this funny cliche and then everyone else decided it was a fun but polite way to say you are too busy to meet with someone or to help someone and you have no idea when you can fit them into your schedule. However, it is better to tell someone you are swamped this week and request a meeting the following week. Or just say you have back-to-back meetings all day.  
Clearly saying what you mean in the workplace gives you credibility with coworkers and clients. Engage with those around you with clear words and skip the cliches. It’s an easy way to improve yourself in 2017. 

Related News

Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.