Buzzword bingo: Is that even a word?

by |

When it comes to using lingo, HR would have to be one of the worst offenders. Keeping up with the latest acronyms and management terms can be a full time job in itself!

Though many are industry-related terminologies, some have come to be negatively recognized as buzzwords or management speak – words or phrases that are incomprehensible, overused and only meant to impress.

In a BBC Radio 4 show, author and Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaways ruthlessly lampooned the amount of buzzwords used in businesses. She argued that they have so permeated everyday language that even farmers use the phrase – “going forward”.

The talk was followed by hundreds of comments by listeners who said that some phrases used by managers were confusing, and at times, downright unintelligible. Listeners contributed to the ‘Office-speak phrases you love to hate’ that included “drill down”, “low hanging fruit” and “looking under the bonnet”.

Speak plainly or be disconnected

Managers point out that some buzz phrases are unavoidable as they help to put a point across. O’Shea explains that many companies use “acronyms, hybrid words or phrases to bond their employees internally, which is fine as long as there is a collective understanding behind their use and there is a need for them.”

The corporate environment will always have its share of lingo but employers should assess the context and environment before littering conversations with management lingo.

Brent Tignor, regional HR manager, Asia Pacific, Stepan Company jokingly puts it: “If someone uses the words synergy, paradigm and robust all in the same conversation, they have become a corporate slave and cannot be trusted.”

The top 5 HR buzzwords:


HR buzzword
Core competency
A specific factor that a business sees as being central to the way it, or its employees’ work
Employee empowerment
Strategy and philosophy that enables employees to make decisions about their jobs and take responsibility
Employee engagement
To fully involve an employee in his or her work
Act of attending work while sick
Talent acquisition
To recruit someone
Turn it into a game!
Buzzword bingo (also known as Bullsh*t Bingo) is a bingo-style game where participants prepare bingo cards with buzzwords and tick them off as they are used during meetings or conferences.
The game is generally played in situations where members of the meeting feel the speaker is overusing buzzwords rather than providing information or ideas in plain language. Business meetings led by guest speakers or high up company leaders are often viewed as prime opportunities to play, as the language used by these speakers often includes rampant usage of words which are perfect for buzzword bingo.
An important element of the game is having the courage to actually yell “Bingo!”. In order to avoid the reprimands that would likely result from doing so, participants may resort to looking at one another and silently mouthing the word “Bingo”. A variation of the game requires the person who has achieved bingo to raise his or her hand and contextualize the word “Bingo” into a comment or question.
Here is a printable Buzzword Bingo card to liven up your next meeting:


Touch base
Blue-sky ideas
Let’s take a moment
Moving forward
Strategic fit
Fast track
Core competencies
Big picture
Result driven
Core business
Best practice
Client focus
Knowledge base
Business model
Bottom line
Business model
Take that off line
Client focus
Think outside the box
Do lunch
Fly it up the flag pole
Result driven
Take that on board
Touch base
Fast track
Let’s take a moment
External forces

HRM Online forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Name (required)
Comment (required)
By submitting, I agree to the Terms & Conditions