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Avoid These 10 Corporate Buzzwords and Phrases If You Don't Want Your Millennial Employees to Hate You

Work-related meme accounts and corporate-parody TikTok videos have abounded over the past two years, as working from home means people have far more time to scroll social media than in pre-pandemic times. These accounts have found success by poking fun at the repetitiveness of corporate jargon, especially when most work interactions are now happening over email or Slack rather than in person. 

The National Society of Leadership & Success, an honor society with chapters at more than 700 universities, surveyed more than 30,000 of its 18-to-30-year-old members to find what phrases are particularly irksome to millennial employees, and the results likely won’t surprise you if you’ve spent any time in corporate America.

“By substituting filler words with more precise alternatives, you build trust with your audience and present a more compelling message or direction,” says NSLS President Neil Khaund. “If you want to be a better leader, avoid unclear and overused jargon that doesn’t convey anything meaningful and causes the recipient to cringe.”

Read on for the 10 most cringeworthy phrases. 

“In these trying times….”

When the pandemic hit, everyone from small mom-and-pop shops to large corporations chimed into the conversation to outline their pandemic responses. Two years in, millennial employees are simply over the disclaimer, “In these trying times….” The NSLS survey respondents think it’s positive to acknowledge the pandemic, but this phrase in particular downplays the severity of it. 

“Circle back”

“Circling back” is a favorite of managers everywhere — usually used as a way to gently table a discussion topic and make a promise they don’t intend to follow through on. But if you do use it, please make sure you actually circle back to the discussion topic at a better time. 


Although, “I don’t have the bandwidth” might seem like a nicer way to reject someone than simply saying no, millennial employees would really just prefer you say, “I don’t have the time” or, “I don’t have the mental capacity.”

Read More: Why Jargon Is Bad for Your Business — and How To Eliminate It


Despite what workplace comedies might lead you to believe, most people don’t really want to be friends with their coworkers, especially their boss. Though you might call an employee “buddy” as a term of endearment, it actually comes off as condescending. 

“Moving this to the top of your inbox….”

Too many friendly follow-ups can set anyone on edge. Millennials find this phrase particularly egregious because it implies they don’t have their inboxes under control in the first place. 

“The new normal”

Another Covid-related buzz phrase, “the new normal” rubs millennials the wrong way because it once again trivializes the real, lasting impact of the pandemic. 

“What else?”

Meant to be a way to get employees to open up about challenges and questions, posing the question, “What else?” sometimes makes others feel as if they need to have questions prepared for every meeting. Instead, try simply letting employees know your door is always open. 

Read More: Here’s Why You Absolutely Have to Stop Using Jargon at Work


Just because you understand something, doesn’t mean everyone on your team does. 

“Level up”

This video-game-adjacent buzzword just rubs some survey respondents the wrong way. Work isn’t a game, and it doesn’t need to be treated as such. 


Survey respondents find this word vague — instead of saying something is going to be impacted, describe how and what will actually change. 

Leadership is about meeting your employees halfway. Though you don’t have to cut each of these words and expressions from your vocabulary completely, think twice before you use one in the future. Your millennial employees will thank you. 

Read More: 4 Benefits Your Millennial Employees Actually Want

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