Browse Definitions :

Getty Images

58 awful corporate jargon phrases you can't escape

Business jargon runs rampant in the workplace. Here's a guide to deciphering the lingo.

In the course of a day, you may be asked to do a brain dump, whiteboard a go-to-market strategy and have a one-on-one with your manager where you talk about being in the weeds because you're herding cats.

Confused? You're not alone.

Idioms have long been a part of the English language, but people are often afraid to ask what a phrase means for fear of having egg on their face -- that means looking foolish. Now is the time to update that vocabulary with some corporate jargon to keep up with company culture.

Business buzzwords and phrases

Here are 58 words and phrases that have become part of corporate lingo:

  1. Above my paygrade. Outside the scope of your responsibility and/or needs to be addressed by someone higher up.
  2. Action item. A task that needs to be completed. Workers may frequently come away from meetings with a list of action items that need to happen in a set time frame.
  3. Back burner. A task or responsibility that you will revisit at a later date.
  4. Bandwidth. Related to workload and the ability and/or time to address a situation. "I don't have the bandwidth to complete that task."
  5. Brain dump. Taking all of the thoughts in your head and putting them on paper.
  6. Break down silos. Removing barriers between teams and/or departments to improve efficiency.
  7. Bring it to the table. Used in HR circles to describe what skills and experience a job candidate can provide to a company.
  8. Buy-in. Persuading employees and other stakeholders to willingly accept and support something, such as a new business plan or policy.
  9. Churn. Also known as churn rate, the number of employees or customers who leave a business in a given time frame.
  10. Clock watcher. An employee who continually looks at the time waiting for the workday to be over.
  11. Core competencies. An organization's or person's strengths, including skills, knowledge and capabilities.
  12. Deep dive. A thorough analysis of something.
  13. Deliverable. An item that must be produced at the end of a project.
  14. Drill down. Analyzing something more in depth.
  15. Drink the Kool-Aid. Blindly believe in and follow questionable principles or ideas.
  16. Ducks in a row. Organizing everything, getting it under control.
  17. Dumpster fire. A catastrophically bad situation.
  18. Fire drill. An unexpected event or task that needs to be done quickly.
  19. Flesh out. Providing more information about something.
  20. Game changer. A newly introduced element that significantly affects an existing situation.
  21. Go to market. Often referring to a go-to-market strategy , this spells out how a company delivers products and services to customers.
  22. Hard stop. A specific end time for something because you have something scheduled immediately behind it.
  23. Herding cats. A negative phrase used by managers to describe a team that is difficult to deal with.
  24. Hot desking. Sharing desks in an office that aren't assigned to anyone. Desks are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  25. In the weeds. Overwhelmed by work.
  26. Let's circle back on that. To suggest talking about something again later.
  27. Let's take this offline. To suggest discussing something in private.
  28. Low-hanging fruit. Low-effort tasks with high-yield results.
  29. Make hay. Taking advantage of an opportunity.
  30. Micromanager. A boss who excessively observes and controls team members.
  31. Move the goal posts. Changing the rules to gain an advantage for yourself and make it more difficult for others.
  32. Move the needle. Making a noticeable change.
  33. Office drone. A white-collar worker who does the same mundane tasks from day to day.
  34. One-on-one. A regularly scheduled meeting or check-in between two people -- usually, a manager and employee.
  35. Pain point. Problem business customers and employees face.
  36. Per my last email. A polite way of telling someone you've already addressed their question in a previous email.
  37. Ping. Sound heard when a message or text is received on a computer or phone.
  38. Pivot. In the business world, changing direction when something is not working.
  39. Punt. Delay or postpone, such as moving a meeting to another day.
  40. Put a pin in it. Putting something on hold, intending to come back to it later.
  41. Put out a fire. Addressing an expected problem.
  42. Reinvent the wheel. Recreating something that already exists, often unnecessarily.
  43. Run it up the flagpole. Testing the popularity of a new idea or proposal.
  44. Run the numbers. Performing numerical calculations -- often used in accounting and other financial departments.
  45. Sidebar. An unplanned discussion -- often off-topic -- during a meeting.
  46. Slide deck. A slideshow presentation -- usually refers to a PowerPoint presentation.
  47. Stand-up. A brief daily meeting to discuss goals and plans for the day.
  48. Think outside the box. Pondering or brainstorming unusual and off-the-beaten-path ideas.
  49. Throw under the bus. Blaming someone else to avoid negative consequences or gain an advantage.
  50. Top-down. A management approach where business leaders make companywide decisions that then filter down to the employees.
  51. Touch base. Talking to someone quickly for an update on something.
  52. Touchpoint. An interaction between a business and its customers.
  53. Trim the fat. When a business reduces unnecessary expenditures to save money.
  54. Voluntold. A play on volunteer and told, being told to volunteer.
  55. Watercooler. A type of conversation where employees take a break to socialize with one another. Previously, it would take place next to the watercooler.
  56. Wheelhouse. Area of expertise.
  57. Whiteboarding. The process of brainstorming using a physical or virtual whiteboard.
  58. You're crushing it. Doing something extremely well and/or exceeding goals.

Next Steps

Bossware explained: Everything employees should know

An explanation of AI buzzwords

Dig Deeper on Human resources management

  • subnet (subnetwork)

    A subnet, or subnetwork, is a segmented piece of a larger network. More specifically, subnets are a logical partition of an IP ...

  • secure access service edge (SASE)

    Secure access service edge (SASE), pronounced sassy, is a cloud architecture model that bundles together network and cloud-native...

  • Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)

    Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is a standard protocol on the internet that ensures the reliable transmission of data between...

  • intrusion detection system (IDS)

    An intrusion detection system monitors (IDS) network traffic for suspicious activity and sends alerts when such activity is ...

  • cyber attack

    A cyber attack is any malicious attempt to gain unauthorized access to a computer, computing system or computer network with the ...

  • digital signature

    A digital signature is a mathematical technique used to validate the authenticity and integrity of a digital document, message or...

  • What is data privacy?

    Data privacy, also called information privacy, is an aspect of data protection that addresses the proper storage, access, ...

  • product development (new product development)

    Product development -- also called new product management -- is a series of steps that includes the conceptualization, design, ...

  • innovation culture

    Innovation culture is the work environment that leaders cultivate to nurture unorthodox thinking and its application.

  • organizational network analysis (ONA)

    Organizational network analysis (ONA) is a quantitative method for modeling and analyzing how communications, information, ...

  • HireVue

    HireVue is an enterprise video interviewing technology provider of a platform that lets recruiters and hiring managers screen ...

  • Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI)

    Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) is a U.S.-based credentialing organization offering certifications to HR ...

Customer Experience
  • What is an outbound call?

    An outbound call is one initiated by a contact center agent to prospective customers and focuses on sales, lead generation, ...

  • What is lead-to-revenue management (L2RM)?

    Lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) is a set of sales and marketing methods focusing on generating revenue throughout the customer ...

  • What is relationship marketing?

    Relationship marketing is a facet of customer relationship management (CRM) that focuses on customer loyalty and long-term ...