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‘Viral’ the New ‘Synergy’? Most Annoying Buzzwords

Phrases like “game changer,” “value add” and “it is what it is” are among the most overused phrases in business today, according to a survey of top executives that was released Thursday.

Staffing company Accountemps hired a research company to survey 150 senior executives from the 1,000 largest US companies about what is “the most annoying or overused phrase or buzzword in the workplace today?”

Among the top responses were “leverage” (used as a verb), “it is what it is,” (new millennium phrase for no comment?) “viral” (as in video), “interface” (a noun forced into verb territory), “socialize” (think animals in zoos, not cocktail parties) and “value-add” (a roundabout way to hyphenate added value).

Other “winners” include “reach out,” “game changer,” “disconnect” (a verb made noun this time), “circle back,” and “cutting edge.”

"When business or industry terms become overused, people stop paying attention to them," Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps, said in a press release. "The best communicators use clear and straightforward language that directly illustrates their points."

The survey follows up on one conducted five years ago. Among the Hall-of-Fame responses from 2004 and 2009 are “synergy,” “think outside the box,” solution,” “customer-centric” and “on the same page.”

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The current economic climate is also taking its toll on workplace vocabularies, the survey found. “Recession,” “downsizing,” “bailout” and “gloom and doom” were all popular responses.

"Nearly everyone is guilty of using buzzwords from time to time," Messmer said. "But professionals are evaluated increasingly on their ability to communicate.”

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