“We’re a Family” and Nine Other Workplace Phrases That Need to Go

The list that follows will make you cringe. Either you’ll bristle at these 10 overused, overly loaded workplace phrases because you’ve heard them too much—or you’ll be embarrassed by how often they slip into your own professional vocabulary. Or possibly both! Whatever the case, it’s time to say goodbye to these 10 workplace phrases.


1. We’re a family.

Actually, in most cases, we’re not. Nearly everyone has a family, whether biological or chosen, traditional or nontraditional, outside the office, and that family is not providing you a regular paycheck in exchange for work output. Your family supports you and loves you, and, ideally, that’s not based on a transaction. (All bets are off if you’re a member of the Roy family on Succession.)

2. It’s the new normal.

The “new normal”—as in, we must adjust to it—became a commonplace term during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, right along with “unprecedented.” The problem with the “new normal” is that it’s a fancy way of saying “you need to accept these new conditions.” In the case of the pandemic, there was some truth to that—but unless you’re dealing with deadly germs, a solution might be possible.

3. We all have to make sacrifices.

Sometimes, yes—but are the sacrifices related to an employee taking on new duties for which they should be compensated? Are we all making sacrifices, or are some employees carrying a heavier burden? Before you use this one, think about what you’re trying to explain away.

4. Be a team player.

A close cousin to “we all have to make sacrifices,” “be a team player” carries a heavy guilt trip with it. This one is often used to squelch questions or prevent employees from looking out for their own best interests lest they let their colleagues down.

5. Give it 110 percent.

It’s mathematically impossible to “give it 110 percent.” One hundred percent equals all—and there is no more than that. And that’s before you consider the philosophical question of whether it makes sense or is in anyone’s best interest to give it “100 percent.” Not every project is worth a heavy investment of energy or resources, and understanding that is part of learning how to prioritize.

6. We’re laser-focused on <insert initiative of choice>.

Being “laser-focused” instead of “focused” simply means you’re adding an extra word to sound fancy. It’s meant to imply you have a goal in sight and won’t let anything get in the way. The only catch is, it’s good to keep your eyes open to make sure you aren’t ignoring other opportunities or information that could potentially change your path forward.

7. Do you have time for a quick favor?

Said favor is generally neither quick nor an actual favor. It’s typically a big project that’s getting dumped on someone. Don’t try to sugarcoat it.

8. Can everyone see my screen? / Can you hear me?

It’s been three years since the world shut down for COVID-19. You should know how to use Zoom by now. It’s no longer a mysterious tool.

9. Will this move the needle?

This one is fairly harmless, but it’s another example of needless jargon. Why not say, “Will this make a difference?”

10. We need to think outside the box.

This is such a cliché that if you’re saying this, you can almost guarantee you are squarely inside the box. It also ignores the fact that sometimes the most creative solutions emerge when you are boxed in by a limited budget or timeframe.

Whether it’s part of a culture of toxic positivity or merely bloviation, business jargon quickly becomes tedious. Before you start circling back because you have a lot to unpack before you can find synergy, ask yourself what you’re really trying to say. You may just need to talk again because there’s a lot to cover before both parties agree. See how much less annoying that sounds?


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