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The empty words and phrases that make employees want to pull their hair out.

The most hated office clichés among engineers and developers

Every employee has their own list of verbiage commonly uttered by their boss or colleagues that drives them crazy. Largely empty clichés infiltrate all industries, with technology being no different. We talked to engineers and developers in and out of financial services – including technology employees at J.P Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Google – to get a better idea of the most overused and often spine-tingling clichés, at least in their opinion. We also included a few from our previous posting on clichés in front-office banking that we're told are equally prevalent in technology. What did they miss? Let us know in the comments.

Ninja/Rockstar/Superstar: Rather tired iterations of the same concept: a creative engineer who is really good at their job. Who wouldn't want that? The variations are still used in many job postings, though the frequency is much lower in financial services as well as in previous years. 

Disruption: A feat often accomplished by rock stars in the form of a product capable of flipping an industry on its head. It's often used even if said solution won't actually flip an industry on its head. 

Building the plane while you’re flying it: The idea of re-designing, building and fixing a product seemingly all at the same time. The phrase can have both positive and negative connotations around the desire to move as quickly as possible, sometimes out of pure necessity.

Breaking down silos: Creating a singular vision through open collaboration.

Agency: Another word common to job descriptions in tech, having “agency” signifies that an employee will have almost full ownership over a project, or so some are told. 

Action items: Essentially just a list of things that need to get done.

Space: Industry or area of specialization. "We're one of the top companies in the e-commerce space." 

Bandwidth: Having “bandwidth” means you have the time to take on more work. People are often asked about their bandwidth rather than volunteering it. 

Ramen-profitable: One we hadn't heard of before  a startup that is technically profitable yet barely breaking even. Many tech companies with multi-billion dollar valuations are nowhere near ramen-profitable. 

Pain points: Problems with a product that you are either encountering or struggling to solve.

Agile: An actual development methodology that many engineers believe is used way too much and oftentimes rather inaccurately.

Dig out: To get through all your backlog of work. “Let me dig out and I’ll come see you in an hour.”

Circle back: A favorite cliché in any industry, people often circle back with each other – or reconnect about an issue at a later time – after they dig out, acquire more bandwidth and complete their action items.

Scalable: Like "agile," it’s more of a borderline cliché, though it’s used so often by management that it’s become tiresome and sometimes meaningless, at least according to one retail-focused bank engineer.

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: Bear with us if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article: all our comments are moderated by actual human beings. Sometimes these humans might be asleep, or away from their desks, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. Eventually it will – unless it’s offensive or libelous (in which case it won’t).  

AUTHORBeecher Tuttle US Editor
  • Jo
    John Roby
    31 December 2019

    Agile is not a methodology.

  • De
    Dewey Sasser
    13 September 2019

    Bandwidth doesn't mean knowledge, bandwidth means reaource capacity, usually time.

    "I just don't have the bandwidth right now." Translates to "I don't have enough time available to do that."

    Sometimes it means attention or mental energy.

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