Office clichés: the definitive illustrative guide to stereotypes in the workplace
You may have heard some of these hackneyed phrases thrown around the table at meetings. Image:

Office clichés: The definitive guide to stereotypes in the workplace

12 Jan 2018

Which of these office clichés really gets under your skin?

The nature of office clichés makes them uniquely irritating, and the phrases themselves tend to be hackneyed, offering little to any dialogue.

They are often metaphors in place of typical (maybe banal) concepts. You’re taking something pedestrian and dressing it up with something else pedestrian.

It’s lyricism, but the most uninspired lyricism possible, so it ends up just feeling like unnecessary equivocation.

Much like Kafkaesque office bureaucracy, managerial buzzwords feel as needless as they do insipid.

Whatever the reason, office clichés aren’t going anywhere, and the ‘run it up the flagpoles’ and ‘give it 110pc’ phrases of this world are enough to push the average worker to a William ‘D-Fens’ Foster-type breakdown.

Headway Capital has decided to compile some of the most infuriating office clichés (much like we did at the end of 2017) and created this illustrated guide.

Some of them I would contest; for example, I wouldn’t say that ‘low-hanging fruit’ or ‘in the loop’ are particularly office-centric. These feel like just your typical turn of phrase, ones that I’ve never heard people complain about.

‘Break down silos’, however, is exactly the type of office cliché that makes me seethe a little. The infographic below explains that it means to “encourage cross-departmental and cross-site communication” – so, it’s a phrase to express the idea of improving communication, but it’s communicated in a way that’s unclear. How has the irony of that gone unchecked? Why ‘silos’? Why can’t you just say walls? Isn’t life hard enough?

As for ‘square the circle’, I honestly can’t describe why this phrase irritates me so much, but it does. It feels like some crude variation of the phrase ‘put a round peg in a square hole’. This lazy iteration might stem from the type of people who believe they’re too busy ‘reinventing the wheel’ to say the whole phrase.

For more of the most objectionable workplace clichés, check out this illustrated guide below.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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