On the surface, it may seem like a polite way to ask for someone’s time. But asking ‘Can I borrow you for a sec’ is also a guaranteed way to irritate your colleagues, according to our latest research.
The phrase was named not only the most overused (41 per cent) but also the most frustrating saying (13 per cent) heard in the workplace.
The survey of 2,000 workers, revealing the most commonly used sayings at work, also highlighted perennial meeting favourites ‘How long is a piece of string?’ (33 per cent) and ‘Move the goal post’ (28 per cent), which were named the second and third most overused respectively.
And when it comes to motivating staff, be wary of using phrases such as ‘Teamwork, dreamwork’ as one in eleven Brits (9 per cent) confessed it as the second most irritating phrase they used at work.
Second came ‘win-win’ (9 per cent), and ‘blue sky thinking’ (8 per cent) rounded out the top three when it comes to our buzzword bugbears.
Work based jargon is commonplace, with 94 per cent of workers saying they are exposed to it, however the study highlights that many do not know the true meaning behind a phrase.
‘Dial it up’ is the most misunderstood expression in the workplace, with two fifths (42 per cent) believing it means ‘make a phone call’ rather than ‘amplify’.
A further 41 per cent think that ‘What’s the red thread?’ is code for ‘What’s the risk?’ when in fact it means ‘What is the consistent theme?’ And two in five (42 per cent) believe ‘let’s take it offline’ means ‘let’s discontinue this email conversation and continue it face-to-face’, instead of ‘Let’s discuss that after the meeting in private’.
Finally, those with a particular peeve for overused lingo at work should watch out. It might just be about to get a whole lot worse.
‘OMG’ (26 per cent), ‘LOL’ (19 per cent) and ‘On fleek’ (4 per cent) are slowly creeping into workplace conversations with employees taking them offline and using them ‘IRL’.
Phrases guaranteed to irritate your co-workers
- Can I borrow you for a sec? (13%)
- How long is a piece of string? (11%)
- Think outside the box (11%)
- Teamwork, dreamwork (11%)
- Keep me in the loop (9%)
- Win-win (9%)
- Pick your brains (8%)
- I’m stacked (8%)
- Blue sky thinking (8%)
- Just playing devil’s advocate (8%)
The most overused sayings in the workplace
- Can I borrow you for a sec? (41%)
- Pick your brains (36%)
- Think outside the box (35%)
- Keep me in the loop (34%)
- Get the ball rolling (34%)
- All hands on deck (33%)
- How long is a piece of string? (33%)
- Back to the drawing board (31%)
- Can you shed some light on this (30%)
- Move the goal-post (28%)
Online expressions people say in the workplace
- OMG (26%)
- LOL (19%)
- FYI (12%)
- Epic fail (10%)
- Cringe (8%)
- Swag (6%)
- YOLO (5%)
- On point / on fleek (4%)
- For the win (4%)
- That’s cray (3%)