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These 5 'annoying' phrases make you sound passive aggressive at work—here’s what to say instead

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When's the last time you rolled your eyes at an email loaded with corporate lingo? 

If the answer is "today" or "this week," you're not alone: people are fed up with workplace jargon. You can hear the collective, exasperated sigh of employees across the internet as videos and tweets poking fun at overused phrases like "per my last email" and "circle back" garner millions of likes. 

According to recent research from Slack, 63% of workers find it "off-putting" when colleagues use workplace jargon in their communication, and 78% reported stopping themselves from talking or sending messages to avoid using jargon. The report is based on survey responses from 2,000 remote and hybrid workers in the United States conducted in January. 

However, as much as workers loathe such clichés, 89% admitted to relying on workplace jargon in conversations with clients, managers and colleagues to "sound more professional" or "maintain office norms."

Here are the top five most annoying workplace jargons to avoid according to Slack, and tips for communicating better at work: 


Why it's annoying: "ASAP" is problematic because it "communicates urgency without clarity," Jaime DeLanghe, senior principal of product management at Slack, tells CNBC Make It. Everyone's "ASAP" has different meanings, too – yours might mean the end of the week, but your boss's could mean the end of the day, which can exacerbate tension and work delays.

What to say instead: Choose a specific date or time. For example, career coach Emily Liou recommends writing, "Is it possible to get me this by EOD?" in a request to someone – that way, the receiver can respond with a more realistic timeline if needed and you "avoid disappointment on both ends," she adds.

'Keep me in the loop' 

Why it's annoying: Similar to "ASAP," this phrase lacks clarity about expectations, DeLanghe says. It can also feel redundant, or imply a lack of trust, especially in a managerial relationship: "You don't want to sound like a helicopter mom," DeLanghe cautions. 

What to say instead: Set parameters about how frequently you and the person you're communicating with should meet or talk about the topic, including specific action words or measurable metrics. For example, DeLanghe suggests saying "Please update me on X date or when X milestone has been achieved."

'Team player'

Why it's annoying: Even if it's intended as a compliment, telling someone they're a "team player" or asking someone to "be a team player" can come off as passive aggressive or a directive, DeLanghe says. As we continue to work through a pandemic, workers have dealt with a lot of stress and unexpected challenges, too, – and this kind of comment can sound like it's encouraging overwork. 

What to say instead: There's plenty of other encouraging phrases to share your appreciation for a colleague, Liou says. She recommends saying, "I appreciate you!" or "I'm so glad you're part of this team." 

'Give 110%'

Why it's annoying: "Who has 110% to give in their work right now? A lot of people are already stretched to their capacities," DeLanghe says, noting the uptick in resignations and mental health issues we're facing. "Hearing this can feel particularly grating, like you're not working hard enough," she adds. 

What to say instead: It's better to use inclusive or motivating language that champions an individual employee or team, Liou suggests. Phrases like "Let's do our best," "We can do it," and "You're going to crush it" are more positive alternatives. 

'Just checking in' 

Why it's annoying: "Just checking in" is arguably one of the most popular phrases in our workplace vernaculars – but sometimes it can come across as "passive aggressive," De Langhe points out. "It can almost imply a sense of 'pre-failure,' like, 'Hey, I'm just checking in because you didn't already let me know what was happening,'" she adds. 

What to say instead: If you're looking for a progress update on a task, Liou suggests asking directly: Say "I thought of you," or "Can I get a progress update?" You can also try, "How is everything going?"

Slack also found that employees have a clear preference for more casual, concise communication, sometimes using emojis or GIFs. Respondents said communicating with emojis and GIFs has made work feel more flexible, friendly and inclusive, as well as helped them feel more authentic at their job. 

The biggest recommendation DeLanghe offers is asking your colleagues what their communication preferences are. "The way we work with one another has changed, and adapting our styles has become a sign of basic workplace respect," she says. "Don't be afraid to speak up and request to communicate differently or to take the initiative to ensure you're corresponding in the best way possible with peers.

Check out:

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Making $85,000 a year as a doula in Washington, D.C.
Making $85,000 a year as a doula in Washington, D.C.