10 Office Phrases And Their Meaning

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Bosses are so frightened of getting on the wrong side of their staff – and human resources –  that they use euphemisms to disguise the cold reality of running a company.

It can be tough at the top.

Bosses are so frightened of getting on the wrong side of their staff – and human resources –  that they use euphemisms to disguise the cold reality of running a company.

When a boss says “job will be lost”, he invariably means that someone else is going to get fired, but if a manager decides to “execute that action” no one is going to die – she probably just means she wants to get something done.

Most of the time, business leaders are so used to mangling their language that they don’t even know they are doing it. On Tuesday, Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, wrote a memo to staff announcing that he was firing hundreds of staff.

“Emails like this are usually riddled with corporate speak so I’m going to give it to you straight,” Dorsey said, before writing an email riddled with jargon.

“We are moving forward with a restructuring of our workforce,” Dorsey said, meaning, “We have to make cuts.”

“The team has been working around the clock to produce streamlined roadmap,” he went on, when he should have said “we’ve decided to simplify our plans”.

Simon Jack, a BBC journalist, paraphrased the six paragraphs of the email as follows: “One in 12 of you reading this email is fired.”

In tribute to Jack Dorsey, here are the worst bits of jargon to strike from your work emails:


1. Lost jobs

“Losing” jobs is one way of softening that nasty business of firing people. Lost where exactly? Other jargon associated with firing people include “restructuring”, “transitioning”, “downsizing” and “letting go”.

2. Reach out

Dorsey’s sign off, “reach out to me directly”, is horribly cuddly, implying some sort of special stroke from a stranger. He should use the word “contact”.


Water metaphors like “streamline” and “workflow” sound much nicer than they are

3. Streamline

A klaxon should go off in your head when you see the word “streamline” in a corporate context. It means that someone or something is about to go. “The rest of the organisation will be streamlined in parallel,” Dorsey said, after telling his staff that Twitter engineers would be fired. It means that everyone else could be fired, too.

Related: > Customer compliant Man fired for farting too much at work

4. Friction

The opposite of streamlining, “friction” means you will have to do some work. When Mark Zuckerberg split the messenger function from the main Facebook app, forcing everyone to download a new app, he said he appreciated that this move “required friction”, which was one way of saying he was about to piss everyone off.


Unless you work in oil, it’s unlikely any drilling will be taking place

5. Drill down

If you work for an oil company, you are excused for drilling down to get to your primary resource, but anyone else should stick to focussing on things. Particularly reprehensible when it comes as one noun, “drilldown”.

6. Take this offline

Often used in meetings, when everyone is in the same room, to “take something offline” means to speak about it in private.


Leave touching base to sportsmen

Related: > Workplace tips 11 Things Smart People Won’t Say At Work

7. End or close of play

Used to signal the time when the workday ends by people who consider their working day to be a kind of sport. Those same people can be found “touching base” with others, as though every conversation is used to score points.

8. Loop in

This usually means that someone is being added to a message thread and is an extension of “in the loop”. Closely related to the practice of “circling back” with an issue, which simply means to follow up.


These guys got the heads up

9. Workflow

Related to streamlining and friction by use of a cuddly water metaphor. Intended to make a meaningless job as a cog in a corporate machine seem more worthwhile.

10. Heads up

You might be grateful if someone gives you a heads up before your job is “lost”, or if you are being “looped in” to an offline conversation that requires you to “execute an action”. Or you might be just as pleased if someone let you know.

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