Do you know what these 17 common workplace buzzwords and phrases really mean?

What does synergy even mean?

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What does synergy even mean?
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10’000 Hours/Getty Images

  • Corporate jargon can be confusing, and even annoying.
  • In fact, a lot of people throw around these phrases and buzzwords without really even knowing what they mean.
  • We’ve highlighted 16 common phrases people use in the corporate world, like “move the needle” and “tee it up” – and offered definitions for each.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Corporate lingo is notoriously annoying.

Peppering your speech with a few clichés once in a while is fine, but becoming overly reliant on jargon will make you hard to understand.

Practically everyone has suffered through a conversation or presentation featuring a boss or a coworker needlessly stuffing buzzwords into presentations and conversations. Most of the time, it’s better to just be clear and say what you mean.

For everyone who doesn’t speak “corporate,” here’s a helpful list of translations:

1. ‘Drink the Kool-Aid’

According to a Forbes article, this morbid phrase comes from the infamous 1978 Jonestown deaths. The incident saw over 900 followers of cult leader Jim Jones’s 900 die from drinking cyanide-laced Kool Aid. Today, the saying is synonymous with blindly following something. Yikes.

2. ‘Break down the silos’

This doesn’t have anything to do with destroying a farm’s grain-storing structures. It just means fostering collaboration between different departments within your organization.

3. ‘Tee it up’

This tidbit of golfing terminology just means to organize or prepare something.

4. ‘It’s a paradigm shift’

This term is merely a fancy way of saying that something is a fundamental change.

5. ‘Low-hanging fruit’

Referring to someone or something as low-hanging fruit means that they’re easily obtained.

6. ‘One throat to choke’

When something goes wrong, it’s easier to hold one person or entity accountable. That’s what this violent phrase refers to.

7. ‘Move the needle’

No, this doesn’t refer to sewing. Moving the needle just means you’ve made a big difference.

8. ‘Bite the bullet’

When you bite the bullet, you take on an unpleasant or difficult task. The phrase dates back to battlefield surgeries, where soldiers might bite paper cartridges holding gunpowder and bullets to cope with the pain.

9. ‘Run it up the flagpole’

Thank the original 1960s “Mad Men” for this phrase, which means to test out an idea to determine its popularity.

10. ‘On the bleeding edge’

Gross. This is just a gruesome way to say that something is incredibly advanced.

11. ‘Par for the course’

Here’s some more golf-related jargon. When something’s par for the course, it just means it’s normal or expected.

12. ‘Limited bandwidth’

Technically, bandwidth refers to signal transmissions. In the corporate world, it refers to the capacity to deal with something.

13. ‘Synergy’

Synergy is just jargon for cooperation and collaboration.

14. ‘Core competency’

Your core competencies are the skills and abilities that distinguish you from rivals.

15. ‘Deck’

When you hear someone in the office mention a deck, they probably aren’t talking about their latest home-improvement project. A deck is the series of slides that accompanies the presentation.

16. Out of pocket

This simply means “unavailable.” For example, if your boss says they’ll be “out of pocket” all afternoon, it likely means they’ll be offline and unreachable.

17. Leverage

The simple definition of “leverage” as a verb is, “to use for gain.”