I noted this morning that Scott Adams is far from the only one to suggest that "at the end of the day" (in the meaning "when all is said and done" or "in the final analysis") is typical of "the vacuous way managers speak". This phrase is often cited as "over-used" as well as "irritating", and I did a little lunch-time experiment™ earlier today suggesting that over the past 30 years or so, it's indeed been taking over its rhetorico-ecological niche from competing cliches.
However, an unsystematic scan of my searches seemed inconsistent with the hypothesis that it's especially likely to be used by "managers", however we define that much-maligned class. I speculated that this might be another example of the common process of stereotype-formation, where some behavior perceived as annoying comes to be associated with a class of people who are also perceived as annoying, and the association is then repeatedly strengthened by confirmation bias. (See "The social psychology of linguistic naming and shaming", 2/27/2007, for some discussion.)
Several commenters were not persuaded to abandon their prejudices, and so I decided to do a slightly more systematic check across sources, by comparing the frequency of "at the end of the day" to the frequency of "in the final analysis" in texts on the sites of 13 business, finance or management magazines, and 21 other diverse kinds of magazines and weblogs.
Here are the results, sorted by the ratio of "at the end of the day" to "in the final analysis":
|SOURCE||"end of day"||"final analysis"||RATIO|
|0||Dick Cavett (blog)||112||0||INF|
|2||Michael Berube (blog)||1240||2||620.000|
|8||The Valve (blog)||54||2||27.000|
|11||Andrew Sullivan (blog)||57||3||19.000|
|12||Columbia Journalism Review||110||7||15.714|
|14||The New Yorker||99||7||14.143|
|15||Volokh Conspiracy (blog)||617||75||8.227|
|24||HBS Working Knowledge||126||45||2.800|
|29||Talking Points Memo||754||471||1.601|
|30||Crooked Timber (blog)||147||96||1.531|
|33||Stanley Fish (blog)||75||421||0.178|
Note that the top 10 end-of-the-day-users include just two likely outlets of management-speak (Management Today and Black Enterprise), whereas the bottom ten include five (Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, Government Executive magazine, Inc magazine, Workforce Management magazine, and Chief Executive magazine.
I'm not going to claim that "managers" and other coporate types are actually less likely to use the expression "at the end of the day" than (say) liberal intellectuals and fashion- or gossip-magazine writers are — but this tabulation certainly gives no comfort to those who hold the opposite view.
[Caveat — these numbers were gotten from Google searches using the "site:" feature, and may be subject to some of the notorious numerical inaccuracies of that company's search results.]