Do businesspeople like business jargon? Mostly, yes
March 26th, 2024, Christien Pheby

Do businesspeople like business jargon? Mostly, yes

If you've spent time in a corporate environment and you may have heard senior people talk about “pain points”, “KPIs”, and “paradigm shifts”. It’s the hybrid of technical-sounding terms and everyday clichés that makes up much modern business language, and it’s come in for a lot of criticism over the years. Why do senior people say “touch base” instead of “Hi”? Is an “elevator pitch” not just a brief summary in Ted Baker slacks? And do people actually enjoy talking this way?

Often, yes. YouGov asked senior leaders at businesses across the nation how much they liked or disliked several jargon phrases. We tried to include a range of terms, from general colloquialisms (e.g. “reinvent the wheel”) that have taken on a corporate flavour, through classics of the genre like “synergy”, to concepts with a specific meaning – e.g. minimum viable product – that have nevertheless been described as business buzzwords.

Mostly, business leaders like these phrases more than they dislike them. The one exception is “circle back”: 42% enjoy it, 47% do not.

The most popular bits of corporate speak we polled were KPI (77% vs. 18%), networking (69% vs. 26%), reinvent the wheel (66% vs. 29%), and thinking outside the box (62% vs. 35%).

A majority also enjoy using phrases such as minimum viable product (58% vs. 27%), elevator pitch (58% vs. 33%), pain point (57% vs. 33%), and bandwidth (56% vs. 32%). More than half also think synergy (56% vs. 35%), granular (55% vs. 32%), thought leader (53% vs. 38%), touch point (53% vs. 35%), disrupt (52% vs. 37%) optics (50% vs. 37%) and lean startup (50% vs. 29%) are useful words and phrases to say.

While sayings like touch base (49% vs. 43%), boil the ocean (48% vs. 41%) unicorn (46% vs. 40%) sweat equity (45% vs. 40%), paradigm shift (44% vs. 40%) and growth hacking (42% vs. 41%) cannot command majority support among our panel of senior decision makers, they are still more liked than disliked.

Again, these represent just a smattering of phrases sometimes used in everyday business speech. We could probably populate another poll with things like “stakeholder”, “silo”, “run up the flagpole” and “blue sky thinking.” Based on the responses to our survey, though, the takeaway seems clear: most business leaders are keen to keep the jargon. .

YouGov Surveys: Serviced provide quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This study was conducted online on 26 February – 4 March 2024, with a nationally representative sample of 1,007 businesses decision makers  (aged 18+ years) in Great Britain, using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.