HR Jargon, Psychobabble & Buzzwords — Isn’t It Time For You To Cut The Crap?

Check out the hilarious video below!

by Alan Collins

Cutting the HR jargon, psychobabble and buzzwords will make you much more effective as an HR leader.

I’m convinced of it.

It’ll do the same for the members of your HR team as well.

I confess despising certain words in our profession.

As examples, here are my favorite HR words to hate:

Strategic business partner
Organization effectiveness
Intellectual capital
Going forward
Getting the ball rolling
Drill down
Out of the loop
Thinking outside the box
Touch base
Singing from the same song-sheet
Circle back
Bottom line
Low hanging fruit
Play hardball
On my radar
Value added
To run an idea up the flagpole
Hit the ground running
Customer centric
No ‘i’ in team
Re-inventing the wheel
Dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s
On the same page
Pick up and run with it

And my all-time favorite…

Being strategic!
(yes, that strategic word again,)

What ever happened to speaking plainly in HR?  That is, saying things so your grandmother or a 12-year old can understand them.  

What ever happened to showing your clients how brilliant you are using your OWN words and language?

Yes, I know that some HR jargon is meant to soothe upset employees (e.g. rightsizing).

Yes, I know some words are exchanged to communicate quickly with our HR colleagues (e.g the HR competency model).

Yes, I know sometimes we use euphemisms when the truth sounds cold and scary (e.g. rationalizing the workforce by 50%).

But many times, this is overdone and we sound like mindless robots stuck in our own world.

 *   *   *

Frankly, I’m guilty of this myself.

I know when I use jargon, my clients can see through my B.S. and it makes me look no different than every other HR pro trying to impress someone.

So, I’ve decided to stop it.

Or at least minimize it.

I’m convinced doing so will make me communicate more clearly, strengthen my impact and make more effective.

You should too.

To see the consequences of using crappy words in HR, check out the 3 minute video below… (note: you may want to pass this video on to your colleagues as well)…

What’s your take?

Is this video accurate?

Is it time for you to cut the crap?

Or am I just full-of -it and overreacting?

What are your thoughts?

Better yet, get perspectives from your HR colleagues and your boss.

-What HR words and jargon do they love to hate?
-Would reducing the use of them enhance their impact?

Share your own reactions in the comments below by clicking here. 



About the Author: Alan Collins is Founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of the THE NEW HR LEADER’S FIRST 100 DAYS and UNWRITTEN HR RULES.

He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives and teams for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.

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14 Responses to “HR Jargon, Psychobabble & Buzzwords — Isn’t It Time For You To Cut The Crap?”

  1. Glen Says:

    That video is priceless! And the voices are perfect! Thanks Alan!

  2. Sajan Thomas Says:

    Brilliant and amazing. I am in complete agreement with the author.
    Kind Regards,

  3. Okezie Says:

    Spot on Alan! The HR Business Partner lady is just cool, calm, confident and straight to the point. That’s how we roll!

  4. Chuck Imhoff Says:


    Great video and even greater message!
    Over the years there has been various jargon used in the HR community, but now it seems to be getting out of hand… especially when you have to define and explain what the jargon means. In the past there was no explanation needed.

  5. Christina Nelson Says:

    Hi Alan,

    Thank you so much for all your great lessons. It has been a tremendous help to my career and has allowed me to take more challenging projects that has caught the attention of top executives. One of them is now my mentor and I am working on some new projects to continue to help me grow professionally. Thanks again.

  6. Paul Says:

    Yes-unfortunately for HR this video is very accurate but she stands her ground well. Had she not she would have been bullied and become very stressed.

    I remember one of my past HR Managers positions – it was my first day and the Ops Manager was threatening to “king hit” me (they were the words he used) in the car park…hahah. Welcome to HR!

  7. Bill Richards Says:

    Hi Allan,
    Having been involved with HR for over 30 years, it has been interesting to look at its evolution. Why did we ever move away from the term ‘people’? I do note that some companies are starting to realise that we don’t lead ‘human resources’, we lead ‘people’! The video was interesting and in many cases true, but how did we get to this stage?
    I believe it all stems from leadership, or the lack of it. For too long ‘HR’ or ‘People’ leaders have allowed the function to be downgraded to basically an admin function. Yet when we realise we are not being heard at the table, we stamp our feet and act like spoilt children because ‘noone is listening to us’
    The main reason for that is the current crop of HR people are young, inexperienced and have little or no relationship building skills ability.
    Sorry if I sound harsh, but I am a bit like you Alan and I say it like it is.
    Wake up HR people and get your feet back on the ground and start adding value to organisations or you’ll be made redundant!
    Have a nice day

  8. Lillie Farmer Says:

    Sad that we can create a video that accurately portrays many corporate conversations! Kudos to the HR LADY for standing her ground–that can get hairy in HR, especially when dealing with management who have been with the company 20+ years. The HR jargon I’m tired of hearing is “onboarding”, “employee engagement” and “circle back”!

  9. Shavon Smith Says:

    Spot on Alan! I have learned a lot of valuable information from of your articles. This one is another great lesson.

  10. Cindy O'Dea Says:

    Hi Alan,

    I guess there are a couple of things to learn here – HR people are often their own worst enemy by using jargon instead of just using plain language but the points made about managers wanting HR to do all their work is so accurate and we need to educate managers about what we do and what THEY should be doing. AND please … let’s stop calling HR professionals HR ladies

  11. Shalanda Holmes Says:

    Spot on Alan and I’ve seen several managers exactly like that, but not enough HR folks is like the HRBP in the video. I would say one of my HR Leaders was the total opposite and that one of the reasons I left that organization. She would do anything upper management would tell her, and I would constantly tell her how wrong. The moral was extremely low and PHD individuals was resigning over the weekends because of it! First, she was from another country (meaning she had no clue on HR US laws or we’ve been trying to do for so many years) and didn’t have any HR experience so I had to constantly provide her with hardcore proof, stats and research that I knew what I was talking about…even though I had over 20+ years and degrees in HR.

    Long story short many organizations have done and are still doing this and that’s putting someone with no HR background in Leadership roles instead of the other way around.

    I agree with Mr. Bill Richards and wake up HR people and please learn about the organization from the bottom to the top so that you can make you own seat at the Head of the Table and let’s rewrite history…or at least rewrite His story!

  12. Alan Says:

    Well said, Shalanda. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  13. Karen Hockins Says:

    The video made me chuckle. I learned a long time ago that you have to become a business partner first before you do anything else. That starts with “I’m here to help, what can I do for you?”. They do not care what we say, it is what we do. HR folks need to remember we know the rules, but it is not our business. We need to align our strategies with their needs, present solutions, avoid saying no. Give them options, they own the business, they take the risk. It may not be the right way but as long as you’ve educated them, you can always effect change slowly over time after you’ve built trust. Be a leader, not a manager.

  14. Joanne Says:

    This advice is spot on. I wish I had this resource early in my career – standing my ground back then would have been a career destroyer.

    Thanks for sharing!