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The Cliché Clean-Up: Revitalizing HR Communication

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In the realm of Human Resources, we're no strangers to the power of words. We use them to motivate, guide, and define the culture of our workplaces. However, some phrases have become so common they're no longer effective. They're the 'zombies' of our HR vocabulary — overused to the point of losing all life and meaning. Before we dive into some of the most notorious offenders, let's understand why reviving our language matters and how it can lead to more dynamic and impactful HR practices.

Outdated Cliché HR Phrases: Time for a Change

In the evolving landscape of HR, language is the bedrock of our communication. However, certain phrases have become so worn that they no longer carry weight, and it's time we lay them to rest. Here's why these HR clichés have overstayed their welcome and what we should be saying instead.

Thinking Outside an Overused Box

"We need everyone to think outside the box on this project."

This directive is meant to inspire innovation but falls flat because it's too abstract. What box? And where exactly is 'outside' in this context? It's a phrase that has lost its meaning due to overuse.

Instead: Try "Let's approach this problem from a new angle. What's something we haven't tried yet?" This is a call to action that demands concrete ideas and genuine creativity.

The Vague Allure of Synergy

"Our project will succeed through the synergy of our team."

The term 'synergy' is intended to highlight the power of collaboration but often ends up as a filler word that doesn't translate into specific action or outcomes.

Instead: Consider saying "By pooling our specific skills, we can achieve more robust results than we would on our own." This provides a clear expectation of collective effort and individual contribution.

Best Practices: Beyond the Buzzword

"As per our best practices, we should..."

This implies there's a superior method, but without context, 'best practices' are just empty words that don't inform or guide.

Instead: Be explicit: "According to our most recent success metrics, this method increases efficiency. Let's discuss how it works." This alternative offers real data and invites dialogue.

The Ambiguity of Value-Added

"This new program is a value-added service for our employees."

'Value-added' is supposed to denote additional benefits, but without specifics, it's a hollow phrase.

Instead: Spell out the benefit: "This program provides our employees with tools to increase productivity by streamlining their daily tasks." This makes the 'value' clear and quantifiable.

The Myth of the Infallible Customer

"The customer is always right."

This age-old saying is meant to emphasize the importance of customer satisfaction but can overlook the complexity of customer interactions and the expertise of the business.

Instead: Use "We prioritize understanding and meeting customer needs while balancing them with our expertise and capabilities." This respects both the customer's voice and your professional judgment.

Circling Back Without Direction

"Let's circle back on this issue later."

It's often used to postpone a discussion but can be perceived as evasive, lacking commitment to a follow-up.

Instead: Give a clear commitment: "I'll gather more information and we will reconvene this discussion next Wednesday." This sets an expectation and a specific timeframe.

Injecting Talent or Cultivating Growth?

"We need to inject talent into our processes."

This suggests an almost clinical insertion of skills, without recognizing the human aspect of recruitment.

Instead: Say "We are looking to attract skilled professionals who can grow with our company and drive innovation." This phrase recognizes the mutual development of both employees and the organization.


It's not enough to replace overused phrases with new ones; we must also ensure our language is direct, specific, and meaningful. This shift will not only refresh our HR communications but also lead to more productive and engaging interactions. It's time to retire these clichés and speak with intention. So, let's give these clichés their last moment of respect with a moment of silence and consider what other clichés need to join the group.


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