10 words and phrases to ban from the workplace in 2022

Jan 04, 2022 4 mins

10 words and phrases to ban from the workplace in 2022
Rozena Crossman

Journalist and translator based in Paris, France.

I sincerely doubt that anyone had childhood dreams about living through the supply-chain shortages and waves of Covid that the past year has dealt us. 2021 was a relentless, rude reminder that 80% of our destiny is out of our hands. But if there’s one thing we still have control over in 2022, it’s our use of language.

It may sound a little kumbaya, but studies have repeatedly shown that language and emotion are linked. Scientists, psychologists and politicians know how influential vocabulary and semantics can be, as does the self-help sector that’s made “manifesting” a huge fad. So if you’re looking to sharpen your communication, win over your co-workers and mentally prep yourself to improve our new world, here are some worn-out, paradoxical and imprecise terms that merit a severance package. They were methodologically chosen by an impartial institution: my brain, which is heartily sick of hearing them.

1. Metaverse

Miss that bleak, empty feeling from watching too much Black Mirror? Just whisper the word “metaverse.” Facebook’s parent company would have us believe that the more we invoke its name, the more real it becomes. Despite its very public efforts to make this “embodied internet” seem thrilling, it failed to hide the fact that the metaverse is the most boring dystopia possible. According to Mark Zuckerberg, this digisphere contains infinite things you can’t do with the regular 2D internet, “like dancing, for example, or different types of fitness.” Incredible—if only we’d had a 3D world sooner. When I am old, virtually perched on top of a cyber-mountain, I will look back on all the pseudo-adventures—grocery shopping, budget meetings—enabled by this groundbreaking tech. Instead of leaning into the escapism aggravated by Covid lockdowns, why not talk about ideas to salvage our actual-verse?

2. Pivot

The Association of National Advertisers in the US voted it the word of the year in 2020. It was acceptable at the time: Covid-19 was brand new and the best-laid plans of all had to be rerouted. Now, however, we’ve changed direction so many times that we’re no longer pivoting but pirouetting. The more we hear it, the more we’re reminded of how directionless society currently feels. It’s time for us to run in a straight, defined line away from this term.

3. Post-pandemic

Maybe Covid-19 is under control in the metaverse, but in the physical realm the virus continues to spread at alarming rates. I don’t know which citizens of the earth still need to hear this but we are, in fact, pre-post-pandemic. The pandemic is not only still here but, after two years of experimenting, scientists have discovered that it cannot be cured by wishful thinking. They’re still in the process of finding a lasting antidote and sturdier vaccines precisely because we are — if you really need a prefix — mid-pandemic. We are still in a pandemic. #WeAreStillInAPandemic. So until further notice, health officials suggest you vaccinate yourself against this term, practice social distancing and…

4. Please keep your mask on

You’re on a plane. It’s a little stuffy. You can hear the chatting, rustling, coughing of nearby passengers. You’ve finally settled comfortably into your seat so you take out your laptop and move your mask down a bit. A flight attendant suddenly appears and asks you to “please keep your mask on, even over your nose.” You’ve been thwarted, and you can only sigh over this restrictive age as you pull your mask back up.

Now, imagine you’re the flight attendant, trying to do their best in a job that makes them much more susceptible to contracting coronavirus, managing customers who have become increasingly unruly this year. They are required in the US, by law, to wear their mask in the workplace—as are their passengers. No one wants to hear it, and they’re sick of saying it. So wherever masks are mandatory, make employees’ lives easier by complying.

5. Agile

On the strength of all the corporate think pieces from the past year, it seems employees should be lean, mean, acrobatic data scientists who code while doing the splits. Business communication has long relied on verbal crutches to make their team members sound like Indiana Jones—product managers leveraging their way out of quicksand with disruptive innovation, if you will. But the Silicon Valley ninja jargon has officially lost its edge. Nowhere is this more evident than with poor “agile”: once a swift, nimble adjective, the word is now so dulled down from overuse, it’s being called into early retirement. Nothing is less “quick, smart and clever” than a blanket term that suffocates precision and clarity.

6. Scalable

Everything is “scalable”: products, ideas, business plans, skyscrapers (if you’re Spider-Man, which is a legit political activity). Sea-monkeys are scalable. Mold is scalable. Your mother is scalable. The only thing that isn’t scalable is the word itself, as I can’t see how the use of this term could possibly increase in 2022.

7. NFT

Neuroplastic functional training. Night-flight tracking. Not feeling thirsty. No farts today. Of all possible combinations for the letters N, F and T, 2021 was most concerned with “non-fungible token,” perhaps the only acronym that makes even less sense when written out. What sounds like a magical coin to heal toe fungus actually refers to a one-of-a-kind digital token used to pay entirely too much money for the rights to GIFs or tweets. If your co-workers are rolling their eyes when they hear the word “blockchain,” chances are they’re not interested in your latest lolcat purchase.

8. Unprecedented

Many white-collar workers adopt in their presentations and emails the vocabulary broadcast by the media—so journalists, this one’s for you. As click-baity as the word may seem, a scroll through this week’s headlines has enough “unprecedented” lawsuits, wealth, climate crises, waves of Covid and images of space for readers to realize there’s nothing to stop the press over—you’re simply reporting everyday news. The gig is up: time for a synonym to take precedence.

9. Covid-friendly

First of all, there is nothing friendly about a disease responsible for an estimated 3 million deaths in 2020 alone. Second, this word was expressly invented to describe activities that, even if all the right precautions are followed, could potentially turn Covid-hostile. Most important of all, every time I hear “covid-friendly” I imagine a Sesame Street puppet of the virus singing “C is for Covid” to guests at a birthday party, which makes it very hard to focus and lowers my productivity.

10. Influencer

Are they celebrities? Slaves to the algorithm? How many followers do they need to be “influential”? At what point are they considered professional? Can a robot be an influencer? If one account is run by a group of people, who is the influencer? This word has been around for far too long for these questions to remain answered, and it already made an appearance on Buzzsaw’s list of words to ban from emails in 2021. Let’s hope 2022 brings us another name for these social manipulators telling us what to wear, how to eat, and which words you should nix next year.

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