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Ever caught yourself “giving it 100 percent” or “thinking outside of the box”? If so, you might be making your co-workers cringe.

New research suggests seven in 10 American workers are guilty of using the most cringe-worthy phrases at the office — with “give it 110 percent” the leading offender.

The study, conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with a company called Jive Communications, looked at the communication behaviors of 2,000 American workers and compiled a list of the 40 most cringe-worthy office phrases.

If you’ve ever “hammered it out,” or “thought outside the box,” you’ve probably had many a coworker roll their eyes after a conversation with you.

Chances are, if you work in an office environment, you’ve probably heard some utterly cringe-worthy watercooler phrases – like, “let’s ballpark this” and “run this up the flagpole.”

What about “synergy”? Ranked at 13, it’s a word many people at the office can’t stand to hear.

While we’ve all gone “back to the drawing board,” 27 percent of American workers shut down and stop listening when anyone feels the need to use such cringe-inspiring phrases at the office.

Nearly all of us have been there, whether we were the ones rolling our eyes or actually using these trite, hackneyed phrases. According to 72 percent of American workers, these annoying words and phrases are used out of habit.

However, it doesn’t mean there aren’t token office jokesters who use such phrases to rile coworkers. In fact, 29 percent of workers use these phrases for this exact purpose, and 22 percent use them for assimilation purposes.

“We’ve all been guilty of using these phrases, whether out of habit or not,” Jive Communications’ Senior Vice President John Pope said. “While many of these phrases are helpful in conveying a message, I think this study will open a lot of people’s eyes. It will help many of us think twice about overusing phrases in the office, as well as the best way to communicate with or motivate those we work with.”

However, while many people are cringing at the office on a daily basis, six in 10 Americans can’t even understand some of these annoying phrases they hear, but it doesn’t seem like this trend is going to be ending any time soon.

So, while you may not understand when someone says “blue-sky thinking” or “learning the ropes,” you might have to get used to hearing these phrases more often than not.

“These phrases definitely aren’t going anywhere anytime soon,” Pope added. “There’s a reason they’re so well known and exercised within office spaces. However, overuse has diluted the meaning of many phrases. If you’re constantly told to give a project ‘110 percent,’ over time it will lose its power and effect. Our goal should be to use such jargon sparingly, and when the moment calls for it.”

The Top 20 Most Cringe-worthy Phrases Used at the Office:

Give 110 percent

Think outside the box

Hammer it out

Heavy lifting

Throw them under the bus

Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched

Pushing the envelope

Let the cat out of the bag

Let’s circle back

Win-win situation

Blue-sky thinking

Boil the ocean


Low-hanging fruit

Take it to the next level

Barking up the wrong tree

Going forward

Let’s ballpark this

Run this up the flagpole

Back to square one

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