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Decoding office jargon: 9 phrases you need to know

New to office culture and can’t quite get your head around all of the jargon? Offices are famous for being a place where people don’t exactly say what they mean. Don’t fret! We’ve decoded the jargon for you. Here are 9 typical office phrases and what they really mean so that you can understand what the heck is going on, whether you’re just interviewing or you’ve been at the company for a while.


1. “We’re going through a transformation.”

A lot of changes can be expected in a company transformation. Whole departments may even get cut and people are most likely losing their jobs. The company strategy is shifting, which can definitely also mean a lot of positive changes too. If you’re new this can be a scary time, but just stay calm and don’t make any assumptions about your position until you’re told directly. There may also be some new hires in the future along with the cuts, or some position changes, so this could be a good opportunity for a young employee.


2. “Moving forward…”

A nice way of saying that things are going to need to change in the future after this issue. Don’t sweat what has been done but here’s how this kind of thing should be handled in the future.


3. “We are optimizing/restructuring/streamlining operations.”

Don’t immediately panic and assume that you’re losing your job. However, do be aware that significant changes are on their way, particularly in terms of letting employees go who may not be reaching their performance targets.


office phrases and what they really mean


4. “I just have a little constructive criticism for you…”

Your boss is trying to politely explain the changes that need to happen in order to ensure that you remain a valuable member of the team. Don’t take it personally – it’s not intended to be personal. Take notes, listen well and implement these changes as soon as you can.


5. “Put this on the backburner.”

This is a way of saying that a certain project or goal is no longer a priority and doesn’t need the time, energy or attention that it once needed. There may be a time when it’s important again in the future, however.


6. “Elevator pitch”

An elevator pitch is a brief and persuasive spoken summary of an idea together with an explanation of the idea’s value. The idea could a service, a process, an event, an organization…etc. Here’s our article on elevator pitches that will tell you everything you need to know about how to make yours.


7. “This position is a stretch role.”

If the hiring manager says that the job is a “stretch role” it means that you’ll be expected to do more than what is listed in the job description. Make sure to ask follow-up questions about how you’ll be expected to manage your time and how this role, or duties expected in this role have been handled in the past. The good thing about a stretch role is the opportunity that you have to learn and grow as a professional with growing responsibilities.


office phrases and what they really mean


8. “This idea really has legs.”

The idea is great and should be implemented, or at least explored. Run with it (go for it)!


9. “Low hanging fruit”

The client or business should be easy to convince or sway. This business or deal is essentially a sure thing.


Now that you understand these office phrases and what they really mean, apply now to boost your career with an international internship!




Photo 1. by The Intern Group

Photo 2. based on Coworker, by Noodles and Beef, CC-by-2.0

Photo 3. based on Coworkers, by Alper Çuğun, CC-by-2.0

Photos and blog by Elizabeth Trovall

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!