Ever caught yourself "giving it 100 percent" or "thinking outside of the box"? If so, you might be making your co-workers cringe.

New research suggests that seven in 10 American workers are guilty of using the most cringeworthy phrases at the office — with “give it 110 percent” the leading offender.


The study, conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with a company called Jive Communications, looked at the communication behaviors of 2,000 American workers and compiled a list of the 40 most cringeworthy office phrases.

And if you have ever “hammered it out,” or “thought outside the box,” then you probably had many a co-worker roll their eyes after a conversation with you.

Ever stood at the water cooler and stumbled into a conversation between two co-workers? Then you’ve probably heard some utterly cringeworthy phrases like “let’s ballpark this” and “run this up the flagpole.”

most cringeworthy new jive comm

To make things worse, just about 7 in 10 workers say they use these phrases out of habit. (Jive Communications)

What about “synergy”? Ranked at 13, this is a word that many people at the office can’t stand to hear.

While we’ve all gone “back to the drawing board,” 27 percent of American workers can’t help but shut down and stop listening when anyone feels the need to use such cringe-inspiring phrases at the office.

And nearly all of us have been there, whether we were the ones cringing and rolling our eyes or actually using these phrases. According to 72 percent of American workers, these annoying words and phrases are used out of habit.


However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t token office jokesters who use cringeworthy phrases at work to test their co-workers. In fact, 29 percent of workers use these phrases for this exact purpose, and 22 percent use them for assimilation purposes.

“We’ve all been guilty of using these phrases, whether out of habit or not," said John Pope, the senior vice president of Jive Communications. "While many of these phrases are helpful in conveying a message, I think this study will open a lot of people’s eyes. It will help many of us think twice about overusing phrases in the office, as well as the best way to communicate with or motivate those we work with.”

And even as six in 10 Americans can’t even understand some of these annoying phrases they hear, it doesn’t seem like this trend is going to be ending any time soon.

As a result, while you may not understand when someone says “blue-sky thinking” or “learning the ropes,” you might just have to get used to hearing these phrases more often than not.

“These phrases definitely aren’t going anywhere anytime soon," Pope added. "There's a reason they're so well-known and exercised within office spaces. However, overuse has diluted the meaning of many phrases. If you're constantly told to give a project '110 percent,' over time it will lose its power and effect. Our goal should be to use such jargon sparingly, and when the moment calls for it."


The Top 40 Most Cringeworthy Used Phrases at the Office:

  1. Give 110 percent
  2. Think outside the box
  3. Hammer it out
  4. Heavy lifting
  5. Throw them under the bus
  6. Don't count your chickens before they've hatched
  7. Pushing the envelope
  8. Let the cat out of the bag
  9. Let's circle back
  10. Win-win situation
  11. Blue-sky thinking
  12. Boil the ocean
  13. Synergy
  14. Low-hanging fruit
  15. Take it to the next level
  16. Barking up the wrong tree
  17. Going forward
  18. Let's ballpark this
  19. Run this up the flagpole
  20. Back to square one
  21. There's no I in team
  22. Back to the drawing board
  23. Paradigm shift
  24. Elephant in the room
  25. Raise the bar
  26. Drill down
  27. Best thing since sliced bread
  28. Deep dive
  29. Skin in the game
  30. Reach out
  31. Touch base
  32. Play hardball
  33. Don't reinvent the wheel
  34. Kept in the loop
  35. The bottom line
  36. Down the road
  37. I'll loop you in
  38. Hit the nail on the head
  39. ASAP
  40. Team player