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The Corporate Lingo Cheat Sheet

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The other day at my office, they celebrated an employee’s 20th anniversary with the company. I was upset. Not because I wasn’t invited, because I was. Nor was I upset at the prospect of toiling away 20 years of my life working at the same meaningless pursuit. No, I was upset because while most of the floor was enjoying cake and coffee, I was trapped in another meeting that was lasting far longer than necessary.

An important thing to note is that we never have free coffee at work. Another important thing to note is that I am completely addicted to coffee.

Yet a third thing to note is that I thoroughly enjoy discussions featuring co-workers trying to one-up each other with stories of their childrens’ prowess in after school activities. Actually I really don’t. In fact, I greatly dislike people who talk just for the sake of hearing themselves speak.

So on this day, not only was I angry that I was missing out on a free dose of what I affectionately like to call the “Elixir of Life,” but I was becoming increasingly frustrated sitting in a meeting as a bunch of Type A wannabe executives blew out jargon laced with corporate buzzwords.

Some of you may be familiar with this situation – not the meeting itself, but people throwing out words that sound important or, more accurately, words designed to make the user feel important. While this may fool a lot of people, it doesn’t float past a jaded corporate drone like me.

But I don’t post columns to complain. (Well, I don’t post them JUST to complain, I also try to inform and educate.) So for those of you who haven’t spent a lot of time in what Donald Trump calls the “Corporate Jungle,” I am offering up a dictionary of corporate terminology for your reference. Actually it probably falls more within the “cheat sheet” classification. Regardless, feel free to use it either as a script or as a translator:

Phrase 1: “We need to get signoff on this”

Translation: “No one here, including myself, has the grapefruits to sign our names to any sort of binding resolution. So, fearing for our jobs, we should instead agree to pass this to someone with more authority so they can take the fall if this plan goes awry.”

Phrase 2: “What are the key takeaways from this meeting?”

Translation: “We’ve basically sat around talking for the last hour and we still really have no idea what we’ve been talking about. So in order to explain to our superiors where we’ve been for all this time, let’s use the next 30 seconds to pound out a few bullet points that we can neatly put into email format for wide distribution.”

Phrase 3: “Let’s take this discussion offline”

Translation: “None of the people talking right now really knows what we’re saying. So to save us further embarrassment in front of our peers, let’s publicly state that we are going to discuss this topic at another time while silently agreeing to never speak of it again.”

Phrase 4: “Do we need to escalate this?”

Translation: See translation of Phrase 1

Phrase 5: “Let’s have a quick breakout session after this meeting”

Translation: “I’m not completely done with hearing myself talk and I want to extend this meeting with a few unfortunate victims whereby we will scribble some random ideas onto a page, in an homage to the high school brainstorming session.” (Note: this is a distant cousin of Phrase 3.)

Phrase 6: “Let’s wait until we are able to complete a deep dive into the data”

Translation: “I’m not ready to tell you anything of relevance. Yet, instead of rescheduling this meeting and sparing everyone’s time, I decided to save face and repeat a bunch of watered down statements over and over until time expires and I finish my latte.”

Phrase 7: “We have to make some business decisions in accordance with our strategic plan”

Translation: “We’re about to lay off a lot of people. So hold off on making any big purchases because you’re probably better off holding on to your money right now. But in the meantime, we’ll let you twist in the wind while capitalizing on your fear of being fired by asking you to work an obscene amount of hours.”

Phrase 8: “We’re approaching the go/no go point”

Translation: “I’m getting nervous. You all should be nervous too and this is my way of letting you know. It’s time to stall until one of the higher ups steps in and takes charge. Can someone pass me that list of corporate phrases?”

So there you have it. A quick overview and reference guide for the next time you either find yourself in a situation where you know nothing and feel the need to look important or if you find yourself caught in a situation with a peacocking project manager in a moment of self importance.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my coffee has fully percolated.

– Hardy

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About Hardy

  • Thanks for the compliment, Gordon.

    Matthew, trust me, you’ve made a great decision by choosing to not envy me. In fact, don’t even look at me. I feel so unpretty.

  • Whenever I’m in a conference call at a newspaper, so much gets done compared to a typical business setting.

    I haven’t really had to deal with “suits,” so to speak. I don’t envy you.

  • Got some key takeaways from your very funny article. Enjoy your coffee.