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  • Lisa Walden

The Buzziest Biz Buzzwords + Phrases You Need to Know



As a couple of research fiends, the latest and greatest reports, stats, and studies are totally our jam. But passionate as we are about numbers, we’re just as smitten (if not more so) by words. While we’ve made it no secret that we’re not huge fans of business jargon (just say what you mean, people!), we do enjoy new terms and/or phrases that can either a.) introduce us to concepts we’ve never thought about before, or b.) put a name to something we’ve always known/felt but never quite had the right word for.


We’re constantly hoarding these little verbal gems, but here are a few of our favorites from 2019:


  1. Time Affluence Let me paint you a picture… you go to work, prepared for a day that’s stacked with back-to-back-to-back meetings. As you’re sitting in a particularly long one, you get an email notifying you that two of your afternoon meetings have been cancelled. SCORE! Like… major score. Those feelings of relief and happiness and “I think I might cry” that sweep over you, those are because you’re celebrating your newfound time affluence. All of a sudden, you are rich in time where you were once poor. You’ve been magically granted the gift of more time, and it’s all the sweeter for the fact that you weren’t expecting it in the first place.

  2. Cryptomnesia By now most people are probably familiar with the concept of idea theft. This is where you say something brill in a meeting and it’s ignored. But then someone else repeats your thought with more panache and bravado, and all of a sudden they’re the genius with the million-dollar idea. Sometimes this thieving happens on purpose, and you feel the sting of real-time plagiarism as someone overtly takes credit for your brainpower. Other times, though, it happens unintentionally. Other times, it’s cryptomnesia. Cryptomnesia is an “implicit memory phenomenon in which people mistakenly believe that a current thought or idea is a product of their own creation.” When someone steals your idea on purpose, that’s one thing. But it adds a whole other layer of annoyance (and awkwardness) when they don’t even know what they’ve done!

  3. FOBO (Fear of a Better Option) By now the phrases FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out) are old hat. Your grandma has probably tagged a post with #FOMO on her very active Facebook account. Patrick McGinnis is the person we can all credit for coining the popular and often annoying acronym, back in 2003. But FOBO, McGinnis’s other iteration, never struck the same kind of emotional chord. Until now. FOBO is closely tied to a sense of ennui, never being quite happy enough, quite satisfied enough, basically just never feeling the relief of “I have enough.” All the job-hopping currently happening in the workplace, especially among younger generation employees… could it have some tie to FOBO? Sure, your job is good. But might there be a better one out there? One that is great? Greater, even, than the great you currently have? Maybe… and the FOBO is real, and thus, you make your exit. Or you become nervous that you’ll experience FOMO if you leave, so then you feel FODA (the Fear Of Doing Anything.) Is there any end in sight to these pesky acronyms?!?! (Answer: nope.)

  4. Continuous Partial Attention One of our current research initiatives is all about focus, or rather, the lack thereof. With so many highly sophisticated tools vying for our attention (in sometimes kind of scary ways), we’re curious to learn more about how workplaces can create environments for people to carve out space and time for focused attention and thereby do their best work. While studying this initiative, we came across the phrase “continuous partial attention”, and it feels so illustrative of today’s working world. You know, the constant skimming of information, checking email (and social accounts) every few minutes, the headline-reading-but-never-clicking-on-the-article tendency, and waiting for your next notification like it’s your next fix. This kind of fractured attention is, not to be too dramatic, highly concerning. Recent studies show that this state of continuous partial attention may be rewiring our brains to always skim and never dive deep (for more, read this excellent book by Nicholas Carr). I don’t know about you, but from our perspective… this can’t be a healthy new trend for the future of the working world, or really the world in general.

  5. Workplace Ghosting Ah, ghosting. This is a term that originated in the online dating world (weird, I know. Bear with me). Ghosting is when you suddenly cut off all contact with someone without supplying any explanation at all. Not a call. Or text. Or even a hand waving emoji. Because so much of our communication these days takes place behind a screen, it’s pretty darn easy to just stop talking to someone and fade, like a ghost, into the ether. Doing this on dating sites is one thing (though still not very kind). Doing it at work is something else entirely. And we’re not making this workplace ghosting phenomenon up… it’s actually happening. People are simply not showing up to job interviews, to first days on the job, and sometimes, without giving anything remotely resembling notice, they’re not returning to currently held jobs. A spooky new trend, indeed!