The Worst Business Buzzword Offenders: Enterprises or Small Businesss?

November 18th, 2019

Jargon is part of doing business anywhere–but it’s most rampant in the mid-market

Research shows no matter where you work, you almost certainly hear buzzwords sometimes during your day. On average, 94% of professionals hear business buzzwords on a daily basis. More likely than not, you’re hearing these cliches often, or even way too much.

But it turns out, buzzwords are not distributed equally in the workforce. They’re most pronounced in the mid-market. Looking at the frequency of business jargon based on the number of employees who work at an organization, smaller and larger companies aren’t quite as beleaguered as mid-sized companies.

Source: September 2019 survey of 764 business professionals conducted by TrustRadius

26% of respondents in this study were from small businesses, 41% were from mid-sized companies, and 32% were from enterprises.

Read on for more insight into business buzzwords usage by company size. You’ll find out which buzzwords small business, mid-market, and enterprise employees hate. You’ll also find out more about what makes language in these workplaces different.

Business jargon at small businesses

Employees at small businesses seem to experience buzzwords the least during the workday. Still, around 1 in 5 respondents who work at a company with fifty or fewer employees said they hear business buzzwords way too much on a daily basis. Around 2 in 5 small business employees said they hear buzzwords often in a typical workday, and another 29% hear buzzwords sometimes. 8% of respondents at small businesses hear them almost never, which is a higher rate of avoiding buzzwords than other company sizes. (It’s 2x the amount of employees at mid-sized companies who almost never hear buzzwords.)

The 5 worst buzzwords for employees at small businesses

  1. Synergy
  2. Think outside the box
  3. Big data
  4. At the end of the day
  5. Tie: Circle back / Agile

Business jargon at mid-sized companies

2 out of 5 respondents from mid-sized companies with 51-1,000 employees said in a typical workday, they hear business buzzwords way too much. Only 4% of those at mid-sized companies have workplaces mostly free of jargon. 1 in 4 mid-sized employees hears buzzwords sometimes, and another 31% hear them often during the day. 

Mid-sized companies exhibit the highest frequency of buzzwords. If you work at a mid-sized company, you are 66% more likely to hear business buzzwords way too much, compared to employees at enterprises. At a mid-sized company, you are 90% more likely to hear business buzzwords way too much than employees at small businesses.

This might be because businesses in the mid-market have grown enough to have hierarchies in place, and are too large for all employees to know each other on a personal basis. But, they’re not quite big enough to formal and bureaucratic. Nor do they have as many resources as enterprises. Individual personalities still hold more sway than the corporate structure, just barely. Efficiency and scalability are key, since mid-sized companies are often pushing for further growth. In that environment, having a tried and true in-group vocabulary may be particularly useful.

At the same time, it’s possible that employees at mid-sized companies are more easily annoyed by business buzzwords. Perhaps they are sensitive to cookie cutter terms because they’re stuck between the strong valuation of individual relationships by small businesses, and the extra benefits and security that come with working for an enterprise. This could cause their answers to be more extreme, based on their perception.

The 5 worst buzzwords for employees at mid-sized companies

  1. Synergy
  2. Low-hanging fruit
  3. Cloud
  4. Take it offline
  5. Think outside the box

Business jargon at enterprises

Buzzwords at enterprises behave similarly to small businesses. (They skew ever so slightly higher, which isn’t very surprising.) 70% of respondents who work at companies with more than a thousand employees said they hear buzzwords sometimes or often during their typical workday. Around 1 in 4 enterprise respondents said they hear buzzwords way too much. Only 6% said they almost never hear business jargon.

The 5 worst buzzwords for employees at enterprises

  1. Synergy
  2. Big  Data
  3. Think outside the box
  4. Agile
  5. Tie: At the end of the day / Cloud

Company size isn’t the only factor that determines how we experience business buzzwords

There are cultural and generational differences, too. Even gender has an impact. Did you know that For example, did you know that men hate to be told to “think outside the box” more than women do? Or that women are more frustrated by being told to “take it offline”? You can learn more about which business jargon annoys men vs. women most here

Remember: most people are not only hearing business buzzwords regularly, but using them too. The terms we ourselves use most frequently, as well as the terms favored by our bosses and our competitors, likely affects our perception of which business buzzwords are the most objectionable.

Sometimes we need to use these terms to communicate efficiently and effectively in business. But they can also cause confusion, feel condescending, or be just plain annoying. Here’s the ultimate list of most-hated business buzzwords, regardless of company size. How many of them do you use with colleagues on a regular basis?