Here is a brief compendium of office jargon. Run a few of these up the flagpole and you may be regarded as the big cheese in the office.
Or you may not.
These are taken from Steve Poole’s excellent article in the Guardian – see the original article here.
The word holiday could be construed as too frivolous and hedonistic, so set your out-of-office autoreply to announce that you are on annual leave. It doesn’t sound nearly as much fun.
As in "We are recruiting for Tom's backfill" or "We will have to backfill Richard."
After someone has been sacked, they tend to leave a person-shaped hole in the landscape. What do you do with a hole - you fill it in – in other words, you backfill (verb), or address the backfill (noun).
Close of play
A manager who tells you to do something by end of play or by close of play – in other words, today – is trying to hypnotise you into thinking you are having fun. You are not.
As in "look at in detail"
This one is pretty flexible. Not only can you drill down, drill up and drill in, but you can even drill around, - rather like an incompetent dentist.
Flagpole, run this up the
Let's run this up the flagpole – meaning to "give it a try" or "test it". This came to prominence in the 1950s Madison Avenue advertising industry. It derived from a yarn that was doing the rounds about the first US president, George Washington. When Betsy Ross presented the new American flag to him, he was supposed to have quipped: "Let's run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it."
This is usually number one on people’s office jargon hate-list. Its the now-ubiquitous way of saying "from now on" or "in future". It has the added rhetorical aim of wiping clean the slate of the past; indeed, it is a kind of incantation or threat aimed at shutting down conversation about whatever bad thing has happened.
"I just wanted to give you a heads-up on …" is now the correct way to say “I just wanted to tell you about …”. Its origin, in American engineering and military circles of the early 20th century, is an exhortation for all the members of your squad or crew to pay attention because something potentially dangerous is about to happen. They should literally straighten their necks and raise their heads. So the call “Heads up!” means “Watch out!”
It’s not OK to call something a problem any more. This will either scare the horses or, even worse, focus responsibility on the bosses. So let us instead deploy the compassionate counselling-speak of "issues". The critic (and manager) Robert Potts translates "There are some issues around X" as: "There is a problem so big that we are scared to even talk about it directly."
There's something peculiarly horrible about the modern habit of turning everything into a journey, with its ersatz thrill of adventurous tourism and its therapeutic implications of personal growth. Sometimes the made-up journey is a group affair, like a school outing. So businesses tell their employees that they have all been on a fascinating voyage together, when in fact many of their colleagues may have been thrown from the bus.
With your key core competencies, you can no doubt achieve the key performance indicators, take on key challenges, and overcome key issues to meet key milestones and placate our key stakeholders, going forward.
Of course, once everything is key, nothing is key any more.
As in "We need to leverage our synergies."
What does this mean? Nobody knows. Not one person.
Open the Kimono
Our favourite. A 1990's phrase that means that everyone should share data. There should be no secrets between those in the meeting. As in a Japanese wife showing her husband her naked body by opening her silk robe or kimono.
“If we’re going to make any progress with this new standard, we’re going to make sure everyone agrees to open the kimono and not withhold any information”.
The phrase "a no-brainer" originated in sport, to describe a physical action in football or tennis that was so well-drilled it required no conscious thought.
Its subsequent office adoption to mean "obviously a good idea", however, is both inverted boast and threat.
"This is a no-brainer!" means not only "I did not engage my brain for a second in coming up with this idea", but also "You should not engage your brain in any attempt to argue with it".
Offline, take this
"Hey, can we take this offline?" This is a properly bonkers way to say: "Let's talk about it later or in private."