Xnay to the Reach Out

It started earlier this year and peaked in summer.

A saying had crept into emails, conversations and conference calls.  Crept in like some kind of invasive species being harbored by the innocent.

“I’ll reach out.”  “We reached out.” “Let’s reach out.”

One crazily busy day I took notes and counted 20 occurrences … before noon.  I shuddered … we were in deep.

Conference calls were especially prone to it. Example

Call Leader Q: “What’s the status on X?

Someone, anyone A: “We’ve reached out to (any name/any department) but there’s no update available at this time.”

Call Leader Q: “What are your next steps?

Someone, anyone A: “We/I will  reach out again then we’ll reach back to you with an update.”

“Reach out.”

It officially had become the catch phrase for saying you’d done nothing at all.

It was the new cover.

Think about it .. it sounds so gentle that no one’s ever going to challenge it.  Let alone .. follow-up on it.

Oh good gravy.

It’s overdone, misused and now .. meaningless.

The funniest instance happened during a regularly scheduled call at a regularly scheduled time with regularly scheduled participants and a regular percentage therein who  regularly … were never heard from.

One such person was called upon.

A scuffling of papers and scraping sounds ensued.

The reply, “Uh .. sorry I was multi-tasking, could you repeat the question?”  Followed by a mumbled promise to reach out.

I reached out to ensure the phone’s mute button was fully engaged before I LOST it.  Lost it.  Laughed so hard I cried.  In my office. Pounding my desk.  Feeling like the only sane person in the asylum.   That’s when I knew I had to do something.  I couldn’t trust myself not to blurt out “Oh good gravy” on a call.

I paid attention to my words.

I steadfastly avoided the term.

I shared my feelings with my team and challenged all of us to use action words that actually meant something.  Words like: called, wrote, stopped by, checked in on, held a meeting with, followed up with, etc.  And, I also made sure everyone knew that if they were called upon and found they’d missed a step, they could admit it and we’d could go on.   The last thing I wanted was a team giving me mumbled promises about reaching out.

It’s taken time but there’s been a shift. Or maybe I’m desensitized. Not sure.

By all means reach out – but can we save it for charity, compassion, kindness, and … the Four Tops?


What particular office vernacular makes you cringe?  How are you at “touching base,” developing “synergies,” picking “low hanging fruit,” and “brainstorming?”





Categories: Attitude, Determination, Growth, Joy, Life, Opinion, Personal, Thoughts, Work, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “Xnay to the Reach Out

  1. Reblogged this on THE STRATEGIC LEARNER and commented:
    I enjoy a well-stated and genial rant …

  2. Absolutely!! I am so with you on this..

  3. All you have mentioned but in addition while I was working the word “granular” became popular as in “you have to get down to the granular level.” Now we are not talking about any thing that has grain. It may be a process or a white paper. What ever happened to words like “details” and of course one of my favs “nitty gritty?” My CEO always (as in ALWAYS) said, “it is what it is.” I don’t even think I know what that means. Does it mean nothing ever changes? Or should we accept the current status? Sigh!

    • oh yeah! Dad was a grain farmer; doubtful he used the word granular … ever.

      I do use “it is what it is” and it’s a blanket statement to myself to accept whatever lunacy I cannot change (often it’s family related :))

      ~Cheers! MJ

  4. My only office co-workers these days are Motor Man and Gypsy, so I haven’t been subjected to the “reached out” phrase.
    It reminds me of an old boss of mine, president at the time of the company I worked for, who taught me the important lesson of NEVER saying “I don’t know” when he asked me a question. I quickly learned to say: “I’ll find out right now for you!” and then I DID!

  5. Oh my goodness! This is a pet peeve of mine! I call it “corporate speak.” And yes, I am only TOO familiar with all the words you reference. Like you, I notice there are words and phrases that suddenly seem to be everywhere…overused until they become irritants and just the word of the day, or month, or whatever. Other favorites: “seamless” “transparent” “actionable”…how did that get to be a word? “quality”-anything…my husband says he hates “reach out” too! ~ Sheila

    • I heard a news announcer say it recently, “We’ve reached out to the CDC but they’ve not yet shared a comment.” BLECH~!

      Who can forget actionable? 🙂 Great ones, Sheila.

      I love that your husband hates “reach out,” too – what a great guy!! 🙂 MJ

  6. “Reach out” is pretty overused in my business circles as well. I hadn’t realized how overused it was until I read this! 😉

    There’s a word that’s used WAY too much in our office and it makes me nuts. “Verbiage.”

  7. “I have your # and will get back to you when I have a minute” ..what it really means is the person doesn’t have the where with all, to come right out and say “Can’t help you right now, I am busy” I heard this phrase 3 times this summer when I was attempting to find someone to stop and give me an estimate for our furnace. Some people are such chickens. I would rather hear “No” than string me along with a lie.

    • You’re right – it’s the polite way to dodge the request. I think many are chickens but there are just as many who just don’t communicate well.

      If I were asking for someone to give me a quote for business and their response was that “they’d call me when they had a minute” to me – that’s a no right there 🙂

      Have a great day, DM!


  8. I’ve worked for three managers in the past four years, each with their own communication style. The first manager was mousy, ineffective and he was fired. Manager #2 would have a thermonuclear meltdown and toss the F-bomb about threatening to scorch the earth of folks that had wronged him that day (jjjuuusssttt a little vindictive. He retired, before he had a stroke/heart attack/killed one of us). Manager #3 wants details, follow-up, constant information (I text him when he’s away from the store to calm his concerns) but BURIES EVERYONE IN WORK TO THE POINT OF NOTHING GETTING DONE, then is critical when we’re not finished with our projects. I’m on a prescription sleep aid because of this stress. The good thing about all of these managers is that I’ve found freedom in honesty with them. I just tell them what it is that’s happening/not happening/why I’m not done or if I just plain dropped the ball (its happened….just sayin’ I’m human). Surprisingly….I haven’t been canned yet because of this honesty….maybe it’d be better if I had been. I’m not saying that I don’t put it politely or say it in so many words….but sometimes it is…what it is.

    Good rant MJ….you shouldn’t have hit the mute button….would’ve made for good water-cooler talk that day…and the next. 😉


    • Oh RR, I am sorry you are shouldering that kind of stress level – I know what you mean though, and have worked for “that guy.” They’re all bad in their own way but I personally found the phantom yeller the worst – the stress was too much for me. Being honest is the right approach and you’re smart to proactively text the nervous nellie updates so as to calm him down. Oy vey.

      I’m glad you get my rant; had I written this earlier this summer I would have sounded like a mad woman. And if I hadn’t have hit the mute button I’d probably not be employed!! 🙂

      Take care of yourself, RR


  9. I’ve been retired long enough that I’ve never been subjected to “reach out”…thank goodness! Great comment about it…and I like the music…remember it well. 🙂

  10. It’s funny how certain phrases sneak in and the next thing you know, that’s all you hear. When did specific names for merchandise become “product?” No matter what was being sold, it was product. That annoyed me.

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