'Can I borrow you for a sec?'

And the other phrases that drive us mad at work

A  businessman stands behind a pretty and vulnerable young businesswoman, leaning over her with one hand on her shoulder as she

The trouble with colleagues is the amount of time you have to spend with them. Eight hours a day, five days a week - you probably see more of them than you do of your spouse.

And, unlike your spouse, you don't get any choice about your co-workers, so that it's hardly surprising that they sometimes get on your nerves.

And one of the easiest ways to do that is through constantly spouting cliched phrases.

In a recent poll for recruitment consultant Reed, it emerged that the most over-used phrase by far was also the most annoying - 'Can I borrow you for a sec?' It's 'a guaranteed way to irritate your colleagues', says the company's Michael Cheary.

It's particularly annoying because, let's face it, it never is just a sec.

Other phrases that make most people cringe are 'How long is a piece of string?' and 'Think outside the box'.

Meanwhile, jargon can be a particular irritation, with 94% of us saying we're regularly exposed to it. And it's all the worse when people get it wrong.

'Dial it up', for example, is misused almost as often as it's used correctly, with 42% believing it means 'make a phone call' rather than 'amplify'.

A further 41% think that 'What's the red thread?' is code for 'What's the risk?' - when in fact it means 'What is the consistent theme?' It actually derives from a Swedish phrase referring to the thread Theseus used to find his way out of the Minotaur's labyrinth.

Meanwhile, according to Reed, another two in five people believe 'let's take it offline' means 'let's discontinue this email conversation and continue it face-to-face, rather than 'Let's discuss that after the meeting in private'.

One of the most irritating tendencies is one that's only emerged over the last few years: the use of text-speak. 'OMG' is a particular bugbear - and, really, it's hard to see why anyone uses it when it's actually easier to say 'Oh, my God'.

And it's even worse when text-speak rears its ugly head in letters and emails. Research from secretarial recruitment agency Office Angels has shown that more than seven out of ten employers hate it.

"Allowing text phrases like LOL and ROFL to creep into work emails may seem useful to get your point across, but they are too casual for most employers," says managing director Steven Kirkpatrick.

"It might be OK to pop in the odd smiley face when emailing a close colleague, but we would strongly advise that text speak and terms of endearment be left at the office door."

If you find yourself gritting your teeth on a regular basis about your colleagues' verbal habits, the advice is the same as for dealing with any other office annoyance.

If it's causing problems with their work - by annoying clients, for example - you can treat it as a training issue. Otherwise, your best bet is probably to try and get some entertainment out of it by setting up a game of buzzword bingo.

But before you allow yourself to get too wound up about other people's irritating phrases, make sure you're not doing it yourself.

"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," says Lynn Cahillane, communications manager at Reed.

"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."

Phrases guaranteed to irritate your co-workers
Can I borrow you for a sec? (13%)
How long is a piece of string? (11%)
Think outside the box (11%)
Teamwork, dreamwork (11%)
Keep me in the loop (9%)
Win-win (9%)
Pick your brains (8%)
I'm stacked (8%)
Blue sky thinking (8%)
Just playing devil's advocate (8%)

The most overused sayings in the workplace
Can I borrow you for a sec? (41%)
Pick your brains (36%)
Think outside the box (35%)
Keep me in the loop (34%)
Get the ball rolling (34%)
All hands on deck (33%)
How long is a piece of string? (33%)
Back to the drawing board (31%)
Can you shed some light on this (30%)
Move the goal-post (28%)

Online expressions people say in the workplace
OMG (26%)
LOL (19%)
FYI (12%)
Epic fail (10%)
Cringe (8%)
Swag (6%)
YOLO (5%)
On point / on fleek (4%)
For the win (4%)
That's cray (3%)

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