Corporate jargon: a collection and translation of common business slang

There is no shortage of jokes and jabs at corporate jargon. But here’s another.

Though the Internet has its fair share of lists and collections and compilations and generators, I felt too few of them actually helped remind us what they really meant and why they’re so hated — a PC obfuscation of business politics.

So this isn’t meant to be as comprehensive as the ones above, but rather a set of ones I really hear and have really come to understand to have a different, somewhat more subtle meaning.

In the past few years, I’ve gotten a taste of some and felt it took time to learn the most common underlying meaning. I use a lot of these words and phrases, and I don’t necessarily think that’s all that bad. Instead, I list them to help remind myself that I can often be more direct. Here’s my best shot at helping the cause for the rest of us.

My guide to corporate speak that I have consistently heard used in recent years:

  • Alignment — agreement, i.e. Your plan sucks and mine is better, so let’s have a conference call to reach some alignment.
  • All-hands meeting — every person with even a vague relationship to the topic, i.e. We need to design what font to use on this internal memo, so I’ve scheduled an hour all-hands meeting for Thursday.
  • Analytics — data, i.e. I have recently found out what analytics mean, so I’d like daily reports of conversion for everything.
  • Are we on the same page? — do you agree with me? i.e. I’ve explained as thoroughly as I feel the need to, so are we on the same page?
  • As per our conversation — (1) You told me to do something stupid and I did it, or (2) I did all the hard work and am now delivering it to you perfectly i.e. As per our conversation,
  • Asset — stuff, often boring stuff, i.e. Can you get me the asset list for tomorrow’s meeting?
  • Ballpark figure — round number, i.e. I am a middle manager and so need to report to my supervisor about what you’re working on but don’t want to hear all the details, so give me a ballpark figure.
  • Bandwidth — willingness to do something, i.e. I want to drop a bunch of work on you, do you have the bandwidth to get it done by next week?
  • Best of breed — expensive stuff, i.e. I am pushing the executives to support us buying best of breed technology.
  • Best Practices — valuable insight you better appreciate, i.e. This consultant we hired will be talking to us about the best practices of doing a redesign.
  • Bring to the table — show up with, i.e. Figure out how quickly your team can turn this around and when we met, you can bring to the table an overall timeline.
  • Champion — be responsible for something messes up, i.e. I need you to really champion this project.
  • Circle back — talk later, i.e. I don’t really want to deal with this right now, so why don’t we circle back later on.
  • CC — email carbon copy, i.e. I want to passive aggressively alert as many people as possible to your fuck up, so I’m going to CC the entire staff and your supervisor.
  • COB — close of the business day, i.e. Collect the assets and deliver them to me by COB.
  • Core-competency — stuff someone is definitely responsible for, i.e. I know you have taken on a lot of extra responsibilities lately, but this project really seems to be in your core-competency.
  • Creative — stuff the designer made, i.e. Can you forward me the creative so I can include it in my report?
  • Digital — Internet stuff. i.e. What is our digital strategy for our digital assets that will impact our digital users?
  • Don’t “reinvent the wheel” — don’t put a lot of work into this, i.e. My supervisor asked for something stupid I don’t really care about, so I need you to help me, but don’t reinvent the wheel.
  • Download after the meeting — write down notes or share what happened, i.e. I wasn’t able to make that meeting, but he did a download after the meeting and shared with me.
  • Drill down — figure out how this thing is messed up, i.e. I think you and I need to have a conference call and really drill down on how we can fix this.
  • e-anything — the web version of whatever word follows the one-letter prefix. i.e. We need to develop an e-marketing strategy so we can sell more stuff.
  • Eyeballs — people we can sell to, i.e. We need to find a way to get more eyeballs onto this website quickly.
  • Face time — in-person meeting, i.e. I asked to get some face-time with the CEO.
  • Frictionless — fewer people in the decision making process, i.e. I asked my supervisor and he said he’s gotten approval to be the final say on the purchase, so we’ve made it frictionless.
  • Impact — a perception that leads to more money, i.e. We launched a viral advertising campaign that had even more impact that we expected it to have.
  • Leverage — use one thing to get another thing, i.e. The accounting department needs these files, so we can use them as leverage to ask for the thing we want.
  • Low hanging fruit — stuff an un-paid intern can do that we can take credit for, i.e. We need to make some cost cuts, and I think there is some low-hanging fruit that we do right away.
  • Offline, take this — Discuss in different company, i.e. Well, the executive will be pissed about the reasons why we can’t do this, so let’s take this offline and we’ll find a resolution.
  • Outside the box — I don’t like your previous ideas, so we need something different, i.e. Those are good suggestions, but we need to think outside the box on this one.
  • Phone tag — you’re avoiding my calls, i.e. It seems we’ve been playing some phone tag, so I hope you can call me back so we can figure this out.
  • Proactive — solve my problems before I tell you about them, i.e. You’re doing great work, but I just want you to be a little more proactive.
  • Piggyback — steal and give modest or no credit whatsoever for, i.e. I’d really like to piggyback on your idea and bring a proposal to the executives.
  • Per se —  a fancier filler phrase, i.e. Oh, that’s an unexpected question, but, I’d say, this isn’t the final draft, per se, it is something we’d need approval of.
  • Plug-and-play — technology I don’t understand but presume to be simple, i.e. You don’t have to worry about the details of the new point of sale service, it’s a real plug-and-play tool.
  • ROI — return on investment, i.e. What is the ROI of installing a new handrail?
  • Seamless — you will be completely unaware of the problems, i.e. The transition from the outgoing manager to the new one will be seamless.
  • Solutioning — to find a solution, i.e. Somebody fucked up, so rather than solutioning this now, we’ll take this offline.
  • Stakeholder — people who we have to appease, i.e. I am going to schedule weekly meetings with all of the stakeholders.
  • Synergies — opportunities to make money, i.e. You have a big pile of money and I think I have something you would want to buy, so we should find synergies so we both make out like bandits.
  • Touch base — let me check in on your idiocy, i.e. Why don’t you give a first pass at creating a timeline for delivery, and we’ll touch base early next week.
  • Win-win — The party I care about wins, and let’s assume the other one does too. i.e. That’s what my supervisor wants and it also sounds pretty good for the other department, so that’s a win-win.

9 thoughts on “Corporate jargon: a collection and translation of common business slang”

  1. a few more I have heard this year.

    ‘Double Click’ – Open up a the full discussion (or a project) on something you were hoping to breeze over. **i.e. I like your budget, but I see your still funding Cold Fusion research. Lets double-click on that. **

    ‘Double Down’ – Thrown more effort at a problem, usually a failing one. Often includes unacknowledged and unpaid overtime. **i.e. I see the potential of cold fusion now. Lets double down on that.**

    ‘Skunkworks Project’ Continued work on a project that was defunded, denied, or just under the radar.

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