‘Can I borrow you for a sec?’ How to irritate your co-workers revealed

  • ‘Can I borrow you for a sec’ named most overused and irritating workplace phrase
  • ‘Dial it up’ revealed as most misunderstood jargon
  • Online terms ‘OMG’, ‘LOL’, ‘On fleek’ starting to creep into colleague conversations


On the surface, it may seem like a polite way to ask for someone’s time, but new research from reed.co.uk  reveals asking ‘Can I borrow you for a sec’ is a guaranteed way to irritate colleagues. 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 revealed the most commonly used sayings at work including ‘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.

When it comes to motivating staff, be wary of using phrases such as ‘Teamwork, dreamwork’ as one in nine Brits (9 per cent) confessed it as the second most irritating phrase they used at work, followed by ‘win-win’ (9 per cent) and ‘blue sky thinking’ (8 per cent).

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?’ Another 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’ when it actually means ‘Let’s discuss that after the meeting in private’.

Those with a particular peeve for overused lingo at work should watch out, as it could 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’ (In real life).


Mark Rhodes, Marketing Director at reed.co.uk:

‘As we spend a large proportion of daily lives at work, business jargon can sometimes help us identify with colleagues and it’s easy to pick up and repeat common workplace sayings. But, as our research has shown, it can also be confusing and in some cases, extremely irritating. In fact, many companies implement a jargon-free policy in the workplace to ensure conversations are easy to digest. So, rather than fall back on clichéd workplace phrases, think about the point you want to get across and how to express it in a more simple and direct way – you may actually see more positive results.’



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