Buzzwords are confusing for many people, which inspired me to write this blog. In my role of coach and consultant, I often encounter misunderstandings around buzzwords. Recently, I was asked by someone: “What I don’t understand is that we have identified our values in my company, and we communicate them, as well as we use our “value words” daily, but many people do not adhere to them, even though we speak so much about it.”. This question is the reason for today’s blog.

The definition of a buzzword, according to the online dictionary Merriam Webster, is a word or a phrase, often of little meaning that sounds important and is used to impress other people. In the time of change in the workplace, buzzwords are frequently used to convey its urgency or importance. During times of change, some may even consider buzzwords motivating.


A company frequently uses buzzwords to attract employees or communicate specific values, visions, and missions of the company. According to a quick search, some of the current top buzzwords include:

Diversity and inclusion


Employee-focused culture

Sustainable career

Best in class

Circle back

Here is a brief description of what these terms mean. 

Diversity and inclusion refer to the notion that everyone, regardless of who they are, what they represent, or what they do, should feel equally supported and included in all aspects of the workplace.  

It seems like agile is everywhere these days. The concept of Agile represents a project management approach that was invented as a software development tool. It is a method of working that emphasizes communication and feedback, adaptability to change, and produces results (Conrad, 2019). 

Organisations benefit from employee-focused cultures. Focus is on a culture that “…impact everything from employee productivity and happiness to customer retention and market growth” (Maza, 2018).

The notion of a sustainable career has nothing to do with the “green movement”, climate change or the environment. The definition of a sustainable career is the process of how our lives change as we evolve over time, how we develop our skills and careers. There are also other factors that affect a sustainable career, such as the time perspective, the context, and your own personal values (is your work meaningful to you?). In addition, health factors (how stressed are you?), happiness factors (are you satisfied?), and productivity (are you working efficiently?) (De Vos, Van der Heijden, & Akkermans, 2018). 


The “best in class” phrase sounds impressive, but what does it really mean? Best compared to the competitor? Best in following rules and regulations? Best at what? Though ambition and goal setting are not wrong, one should think about how “best in class” is measured and defined.

“Circle back” is another way of saying “I will come back to you”!

Researchers found that managers and employees could negatively affect performance by using unrelatable words. In addition to making employees feel irritated, these invented words may also cause misunderstandings. This may even have a negative impact on productivity (Patoko & Yazdanifard, 2014).

Frequently, buzzwords are used as a way to communicate values, vision statements, and company missions. Speculand and Chaudhary (2008) state that identifying values and visions is the first step of a four-step process. The organization’s attitude and behaviour play a key role in its aim to change and grow. Only after these three steps will the transformation take place. 

In light of all this, I wonder why so much energy is used on finding and promoting buzzwords? Why not use the energy on the attitude and behaviour behind the words? And what will happen if the focus and energy are on buzzwords instead of behaviour and action?

It is not that I object to the deeper meaning behind the buzzwords used here in any way – in fact, I don’t see a problem with them. However, I do see a problem with the use of buzzwords, if indeed they are nothing more than mere words in reality. 





Conrad, A. (2019, November 18). What Exactly Is Agile? A Definition of Agile Project Management. Retrieved August 5, 2021, from

De Vos, A., Van der Heijden, B. I. J. M., & Akkermans, J. (2018). Sustainable careers Towards a conceptual model. Journal of Vocational Behavior, (117).

Maza, V. (2018, July 19). The Five C’s Of Employee-Centric Company Cultures. Retrieved August 10, 2021, from

Patoko, N., & Yazdanifard, R. (2014). The Impact of Using Many Jargon Words, while Communicating with the Organization Employees. American Journal of Industrial and Business Management, 04(10), 567–572.

Speculand, R., & Chaudhary, R. (2008). Living organisational values: the bridges value inculcation model. Business Strategy Series, 9(6), 324–329.


By Jannie Stricker / 12.08.2021