How to Destroy Employee Engagement with a Word (or two):

Feedforward, Chaotic Working, and Other Annoying (Trending) Business Buzzwords

We’re reaching the end of 2023, and new terminology is trending. Over the years, we’ve done our best to steer clear of these buzzwords and catch phrases, but we’ve decided it’s time to address the language in the room.

Some jargon can be absurd, some pretentious, and oftentimes, most is simply off-putting. So, we’re taking a look at some of the language that irks your employees and puts your organization at risk of alienating them as well as new talent.

The language you use in your job postings, descriptions, brochures, on your website, matters. Is your language turning off potential candidates as well as actual employees? Are your teams struggling not to roll their eyes?

Quite possibly.

What are the buzzwords of 2023?

Buzzwords beware. Here are the top cringe-worthy phrases and words from 2023. (Some date back to before 2023, but they just seem to linger on, and on, and on.)


Oh geez. The idea behind feedforward is, instead of looking at the past (feedback), you’re guiding your employees toward the future. The term ‘feedback’ caused a lot of angst, so feedforward has emerged as the phrase-du-jour.

Feedback matters. Discussing your employees’ and teams’ strengths and weaknesses, how to learn from what they’ve done to improve, and creating plans based on feedback matters. When you slip into feedforward jargon, you’ve already lost them.

Also, it’s okay to feel uncomfortable at work sometimes. It’s okay to have tough conversations. And it’s more than okay to take the time to reflect on performance. We'd argue it's necessary.


Resenteeism, loud quitting or grumpy stayers) are terms to describe employees who hate their jobs and stick around because there is a lack of opportunity, they don’t have the energy to apply elsewhere, who knows? And, their negativity spills over into everything they do, everyone they work with.

This has been a mainstay in the world of business from the beginning of time. We’d argue that disengaged and actively disengaged employees aren’t new and finding new words to describe them is unnecessary.

Instead of a word, an organization needs to identify not only who is disengaged but why.

Chaotic working.

Giving friends employee discounts on goods, super-sizing orders for free, getting a doctor to sign off on sick leave for excessive amounts of time, and waving overdraft fees are all examples of chaotic working. When someone uses their position in a company to help customers or clients at the organization’s expense, this is now called chaotic working (or malicious compliance).

This passive-aggressive way to “get back” at your company can go beyond simple perks and discounts. And it can be incredibly disruptive. Oftentimes these behaviors are responses to the rigidness (perceived or real) of an organization’s policies or rules. Take a deep dive into what rules might seem “arbitrary” and controlling. Ask for employee feedback, and implement changes based on it. Introducing flexible, more meaningful policies might get rid of this problem all together.

Like a family.

Most people DO spend more time at work than in their homes. And the trend over the past decade has been a bit forced, turning companies into families. But how realistic is that? It’s likely many of us have those less-than-pleasant family members who drink too much, say cringe things, and are still the mainstay of holiday meals. At work, this won’t fly (we hope!), unless you’re working with The Sopranos.

We’d encourage organizations to focus on building a community that has clear, established boundaries and behavior expectations. Focus on a culture where people feel safe to share their ideas and do their best. Leave the awkwardness of making every workplace (team meeting) a "family" event. People have enough of those at home!

When organization leaders and HR start swimming in jargon, it can be a real turnoff to attract new hires and retain top talent. We’d argue that the buzzwords can cloud the real problems people are experiencing at work: feeling disconnected, not being listened to, rigid and arbitrary rules and procedures, poor management, among other things. Identify the bad behaviors and ask why. That’s a great way to hurdle the jargon and get to the heart of the problems. Understand the issues that impact employee engagement, and leave all the jargon behind.

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