Workplace-speak: what the buzzwords really mean

“break-out group”

We all find ourselves using the latest buzzwords in the workplace, whether we’re in commercial or public sector jobs. But do you know what they all really mean? I’ve “shared” (see below) my own interpretations to give you a quick smile…

Access (n. and v.) Nice way of saying “get at” or even “demand,” “shout for,” or “threaten-with-an-axe-until-I-get-it.”

Break-out group Discussion group charged with an agenda to find the quickest and quietest way out of a UK Category D prison.

Challenge What problems used to be called until they became unfashionable.

Change Draconian cost-cutting with resultant job losses and other misery

Client What civil servants are made to call the general public – through gritted teeth, until they’re reminded that it’s the “clients’” tax money that pays their salaries.

Connect Meet and sniff around something or someone, rather as dogs do to each other’s behinds. Comes before “engage,” see below.

Content What geeks, techies and other IT nerds call those boring pictures, videos and written words that clutter up otherwise perfect technological beauty.

Deliver Do what you’re supposed to do, and make sure it’s a Pepperoni special still piping hot when you produce it from the pannier of your small motorcycle.

Engage What you’re meant to do after you have “connected” (see above.) Preferably down on one knee with a 5 carat diamond ring.

Feedback Response and/or reaction to an event, activity, etc., hopefully without the suggested regurgitation or other dyspeptic reaction.


Joined-up As in handwriting. I would prefer “co-ordinated” but that’s boring. Much better to steal a term from kindergarten.

Journey This romantic sh*t doesn’t fool anyone: calling someone’s run of disastrous luck a “journey” doesn’t soften the blow.

Lead (n.) Boss/manager/supervisor etc. It’s more touchy-feely than older synonyms but this doesn’t prevent the “lead” in a department from biting team members’ butts with every bit as much venom as managers used to.

Locality Means an area. Never use a short word when a long one will do.

Model A business blueprint or system with enormous breast implants and the look of an anorexic meerkat.

Opportunity A crushing, burning need to think up something to solve a problem as a matter of urgency.

Ownership Kind of out of fashion now, except when you want someone else to “own” your problem. Sorry, “challenge.”

Passion What every business / public employee swears blind they have for their job, especially in the light of upcoming job cuts. I’ve even seen companies advertise that they’re passionate about plumbing.

Pathway A route from A to B through a business or other process, e.g. a course of hospital treatment. Bear in mind this word’s close relationship to “leading up the garden path.”

Plenary Everybody has to be here and listen to this. No hiding in the toilets or nipping outdoors for a quick smoke.

Reach out Approach or get in touch with, being careful not to reach out too far and fall flat on your face.

Resources Usually, other people’s talents, skills and experience that you can use and say are your own.


Ringfence Isolate and conserve a “resource” or an amount of money, preferably with electrified barbed wire and a couple of patrolling Rottweilers.

Seamless Without showing any obvious joins, often confused with “papering over the cracks.”

Share Pass on information, although unlike sharing a sandwich with someone you don’t get to keep and eat half each.

Stakeholder People and organisations which have a vested interest in the topic in question, although they won’t necessarily want to stand over it and drive a wooden stake through its heart.

Sustainable A show that is likely to stay on the road once you get it to start rolling in the first place.

What are your favorite buzzwords – and why? Please share!

Get your head around workplace-speak:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English




  1. […] well advised to find an alternative. (Try Roget’s Thesaurus.) Ditto applies to all contemporary business clichés […]