Category Archives: Office Life

Part of the digital economy? You’re www working class now

by Simon Henry @simlington

May Day or International Labour Day celebrates the working class.

But who are they?  Do they still exist? Do they wash themselves?

And will they watch Star Wars films on their day off? (The Bank Holiday is on May the Fourth.)

Actually, if you work on the internet, you have a surprising amount in common with the working class from the early Industrial Revolution.

We’re all www working class now. Here’s how:

1. Trade disunion

Arthur Scargill spent most of the 1980s battling with his unruly hair - and Margaret Thatcher

Arthur Scargill spent the 1980s battling his unruly hair and Margaret Thatcher. He lost both battles

There’s more chance you use Internet Explorer than of belonging to a trade union if you work on t’interweb.

It’s you against your capitalist oppressor – like in the olden days when trade unions were banned.

Actually, your ‘capitalist oppressor’ probably has a meditation room, private health care and share options.

But does this make up for the fraternity of shared misery we had when unions were popular?

2. Casual contracts

Short term contracts have turned many of us into the modern-day equivalent of the 19th century casual labourer.

Except we’re not starving, we get paid shed loads and we can afford to take months off at a time to go find ourselves in Thailand.

You get your loyalty rewarded with Tesco Clubcard.

3. Casual clothing

Beards like this are a common sight in the modern office. In fact this is pretty tame compared to some

Beards like this are a common sight in the modern office. In fact this is pretty tame compared to some

We can turn up for work looking – as my old mam would say – ‘An absolute disgrace’.

T-shirts with skulls on, hoodies, Bermuda shorts, flip-flops and massive beards are all acceptable in the modern office.

Okay, these didn’t actually exist during the Industrial Revolution (except the beards), but the 19th century worker looked fairly messy too.

You see things haven’t moved on so much.

4. Return of the Poor Laws

The spectre of unemployment haunts us and we do everything we can to avoid it.

Gone are the days when you could sign on and work on the side, cash in hand.

Signing on every day for a pittance isn’t far removed from the days of the Poor Law and the workhouse.

5. We actually make stuff

We all work in manufacturing now.

In the 1980s there was lots of hand-wringing about the death of manufacturing industry.

But the coalface is now the developers’ desk and the factory floor is the web producer’s laptop.

Just mess about on Photoshop or WordPress for a bit and voila – you’ve made something.

Like a new blog.

If you enjoyed this, you may like my post about why Failure is often better than success.

You can get an email alert whenever I publish a new post. If you’re on a mobile you can sign up below. If you’re on a computer, sign up at the top right-hand of the page.

And you can follow me @simlington on Twitter

Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014

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Office Space

Get that dream job – but mind your language

by Simon Henry @simlington

It’s spring – the season of hope and growth, when we’re lured into believing new beginnings can actually apply to us.

A lamb signifies spring. It also signifies a delicious roast dinner with mint sauce, roast spuds and all the trimmings. Yum.

A lamb signifies spring. It also signifies a delicious roast dinner with mint sauce, roast spuds and all the trimmings. Yum.

So how can you land your dream job this spring?

There are two ways of getting a good job in a British office.

The first (and easily the best) is to have a well-connected family.

CVs (resumés), personal statements, covering letters and interviews are unnecessary.

You know if you fit into this category. Just as you know which knife and spoon to use.

cameron

The second way of getting that perfect position is to actually apply for jobs …

You’re in the second group, aren’t you?

Hmm. Shame. Ah well. Chin up.

Here’s a tip to get you started:

Words mean different things to different people.

So be careful with your personal statement.

Here’s what the job seeker might write:


“I’m an ambitious self-starter.

My flexibility is matched by a decisive, diligent and dynamic attitude.

A strategic thinker, I’m tough and passionate about what I do.

Resourceful and intuitive, I would be a real asset to your organisation.”


This is how the British employer might read it:


“I’m a borderline psychotic pain in the arse.

I’m desperate for a job now but once I’m in I’ll act like I own the joint and be a really annoying, shouty know-it-all.

Utterly remote from reality, I’m also nasty and liable to sulk.

Lazy and prone to lying, I’m trouble on stilts.”


So here’s the advice: tone down the jargon and self-aggrandising, egotistical lies – and you may well get an interview.

Here’s an A-Z of Office Jargon for more words you may want to treat with a degree of caution.

Alternatively, I hear marrying into the British upper and upper-middle-classes is relatively easy.

Good luck with that.

If you enjoyed this, you may like my post about why Failure is often better than success.

You can get an email alert whenever I publish a new post. If you’re on a mobile you can sign up below. If you’re on a computer, sign up at the top right-hand of the page.

And you can follow me @simlington on Twitter

Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014

Be a sport. Cricket’s 8 lessons for success in the modern office

by Simon Henry @simlington

The cricket season is upon us – which can only mean one thing: the news is absolutely chock-full of football.

As an antidote to the Man United lunacy, here’s a blog about cricket. And to make it actually useful, it shows how cricket can help your career.

Before you groan ‘But cricket’s a load of old tosh’ and stop reading – let me just say, it’ll take you less time to read this than it takes a batsman to get ready to face one ball.

The Laws of Cricket state that before facing each ball, the batsman must:

– Fiddle with the box protecting his private parts at least six times
– Look all around him as many times as possible
– Rearrange the protective helmet on his head three times
– Hit his bat on the ground at least 10 times
– Fiddle with his protective gloves four times
– Mess about with the pads protecting his legs five times

And you won’t be surprised that the first lesson you can learn from cricket is:

1. Patience

Playing Patience at cards is less likely to lead to serious injury than playing cricket.

Playing Patience at cards is less likely to lead to serious injury than playing cricket.

If you work in an office, patience is not only a virtue. It is a prerequisite for avoiding nervous breakdown.

The ‘process’ for getting anything ‘signed off’ requires ‘stakeholder’ ‘feedback’, meaning various ‘iterations’ before all ‘the boulders have been removed from the runway’.

(See my A-Z of corporate jargon for more lovely examples.)

The ability to relax, get a cup of tea and mess about on Facebook – sometimes for weeks – while your colleagues mither is an important skill that can only lead to career success – if only in the very long term.

Read on – your career trajectory is already on its way to matching that of a ball smashed for six by a very strong, sun-kissed young man with rippling biceps and a six-pack.

Here’s a gratuitous picture of some nice-looking, nude players to retain the interest of readers who like that sort of thing.

Cricket has a dull image - but take cricketers' clothes off and the dullness fades.

Cricket has a dull image – but take cricketers’ clothes off and the dullness fades.

2. Jargon

Cricket introduces you to the theory and practice of jargon. Play for long enough and the most ridiculous office jargon will seem tame.

Here’s an example of what trips naturally off the cricketer’s (dry) tongue:

‘On a turning pitch, playing across the line is risky, especially when the bowler has a half-decent googly, Chinaman and arm ball in his armoury.’

3. Management incompetence

Most cricket captains hold the position not because of their inherent skill as a tactician. They’re the only ones who can convince 11 people to give up a full Saturday or a week night to play cricket!

This takes supreme resilience, persuasive power and thick skin – but not necessarily expertise.

Being told to do something really, really silly by your incompetent captain is great practice for being told to do something really, really stupid by your boss.

4. Disappointment and anger

Humiliation and frustration are inherent to the game of cricket. The list of ways to fail is heartbreakingly long. These include:

– The Golden Duck (being out first ball) is what all batsmen fear most
– Dropping a catch makes the bowler angry with you
– Getting hit for six is really depressing and embarrassing
– Being hit in the genitals by a cricket ball is one of the most painful things known to man

Being able to handle anger, fear and failure are all vital during any normal day in the office, aren’t they?

5. Excuses

Cricket would not be cricket without the Excuse For Failure.

Here are three popular excuses for batsmen’s poor performance.

‘Movement behind the bowler’s arm’ ‘Bad pitch’ and ‘Bee buzzing around my head’.

These are usually bogus. Here’s a cricket glossary in case you want to know what the first two mean. The third is, I think, self-explanatory to the layperson.

Office life requires an infinite capacity to avoid blame – and cricket offers no end of opportunities to practise this skill.

6. Disability issues

Cricket positions include:
– Long leg
– Short leg
– Silly mid off
– Backward point

A cricket field sounds like it’s full of people with physical or mental disabilities. So the cricketer is more likely than the average person to take an inclusive attitude. And that’s a really useful attribute in the modern office.

7. Gossip

Most cricketers hate cricket. Its arbitrariness, its capacity to injure – often seriously – and the mind-numbing boredom of waiting around doing literally nothing.

So the best thing about cricket is the drinks in the pub afterwards.

Offices are the same – the best thing about them is the office night out (usually to celebrate someone escaping from it).

8. Inclusive

If you think cricket is only a game for heterosexual he-men, here’s the most famous line from decades and decades of Test Match Specials:

‘The bowler’s Holding the batsman’s Willey.’

If you enjoyed this, you may enjoy my post about why it’s silly to run marathons.

You can get an email alert whenever I publish a new post. If you’re on a mobile you can sign up below. If you’re on a computer, sign up at the top right-hand of the page.

And you can follow me @simlington on Twitter for more attempts to make you smile, laugh, giggle and even possibly wet yourself.

Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014

In praise of the TLA or three-letter acronym: Abbreviation tips for the modern office

by Simon Henry @simlington

According to the Urban Dictionary, ‘A TLA is a three-letter acronym for three-letter acronyms.’

If you’re saying: ‘WFT – CBA TBH.’ you’re already an advanced practitioner of the TLA.
If you’re still confused, a TLA is the first three letters of a three letter phrase. The above example actually means: ‘What the f***? Can’t be arsed, to be honest.’

Let’s see why we think, read and speak in threes.

History

Pythagoras said the number 3 was the noblest of all digits.

And who are we to argue? We don’t have (1) the knowledge, (2) the inclination or (3) the space to take issue with a great mathematician.

The Romans said: ‘Omne trium perfectum’ which means ‘Everything in threes is perfect’. Well, it was until I translated it and made it five.

The Rule of Three is also accepted in Riting & Reading as well as Rithmetic.

‘Blood, sweat and tears’. ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’. ‘F*** This S***’.

three-amigos

The Three Amigos is one of the top 10 films starring three comedians wearing massive sombreros

‘Sex, Lies & Videotape’. ‘The Three Amigos’. ‘Police Academy III’.

Four Little Pigs would lose its artistic tension. Goldilocks & The Two Bears would leave too much porridge. The One Stooge would be funny – but not hilarious.

Threes are best. But they’re rubbish when repeated

Location, location, location is bad telly.

Education, education, education is Blair’s boring politics.

www is really difficult to say. Don’t like difficult.

More about www

www is in a class of its own. It is the longest possible TLA to pronounce – at nine syllables.

In 1999, Douglas Adams said: ‘The world wide web is the only thing I know of whose shortened form takes three times longer to say than what it’s short for.’

Tragically, Douglas died before the www prefix started dying out itself.

More about TLAs

The number of possible three-letter abbreviations using the 26 letters of the alphabet from A to Z (AAA, AAB to ZZY, ZZZ) = 26×26×26 = 17,576.

But there are already duplicates like STD being a dialling code and a dirty disease. So in theory we could be looking at hundreds of thousands.

TLAs for the modern office

Luckily for you, I’ve culled the list to include only the most necessary TLAs in the modern office.

In my 20 years of working in an office, I’ve often heard TLAs tripping off other people’s tongues like renegade spit – but not having a clue what they’re on about.

So I hope this will provide a handy reference for when you’re stuck.

I’ve also included some XTLAs. XTLAs are extended TLAs, like WYSIWYG, which means ‘What you see is what you get’ that are longer than three letters.)

On balance, you’ve come off lightly with a list of around 150.

An A to Z of office TLAs (with some random other ones sprinkled in to keep morale up.)

ABH Actual bodily harm
AGM Annual general meeting
AKA Also known as
AOB Any other business
API Application programming interface
APR Annual percentage rate
ARPU Average revenue per user
ASAP As soon as possible
ATM At the moment / Automatic teller machine

BAC Blood alcohol content
BAU Business as usual
BCC Blind carbon copy
BEM Bug-eyed monster
BFG Big Friendly Giant
BFN Bye for now
BTW By the way
B2B Business to business
B2C Business to consumer

CAD Computer-aided design
CAPEX Capital expenditure
CBA Can’t be arsed
CEO Chief executive officer ( Exchange the middle letter as follows I information, M marketing, T technology, O operating, F finance)
COB Close of business
COD Cash on delivery
COP Close of play
CPS Crown Prosecution Service
CRM Customer relationship management
CTA Call to action

DIY Do it yourself
DNS Domain name server
DOA Dead on arrival
DOB Date of birth
DOJ Drunk on job
DOM Dirty old man
DOS Disk operating system
DPI Dots per inch

EBITDA Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation
ELO Electric Light Orchestra
EOD Every other day / End of day
EOP End of play
ETA Estimated time of arrival
ETD Estimated time of departure

FAQ(s) Frequently asked question(s)
FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation
FDR Franklin Delano Roosevelt
FOC Free of charge
FTP File transfer protocol
FSM Flying Spaghetti Monster
FUBAR F***ed up beyond all repair
FYC Fine Young Cannibals
FYI For your information

GBH Grievous bodily harm
GDP Gross domestic product
GHQ General headquarters
GMT Greenwich Mean Time
GNG Go – no go (This is an example of unacceptable office jargon.)
GNP Gross national product
GPS Global positioning system

HCF Highest common factor
HGV Heavy goods vehicle
HRH His/Her Royal Highness
HWM High water mark
HR Human resources
HQ Headquarters

ICU Intensive care unit
IOU IOU
IPO Initial public offering
ISA Individual savings account
ISP Internet service provider
IUD Intra-uterine device

JIT Just in time
JFDI Just f***ing do it

KFC Kentucky Fried Chicken
KPI Key performance indicator

LOL doesn't mean 'Lots of love'.

LOL doesn’t mean ‘Lots of love’.

LBW Leg before wicket
LCD Liquid crystal display / Lowest common denominator
LCM Lowest common multiple
LIFO Last in first out
LOL Laugh out loud. (Not lots of love. You could get into trouble if you use LOL when something tragic has happened.)

MPB Male pattern baldness
MPC Marginal propensity to consume
MPG Miles per gallon
MPH Miles per hour
MSG Mono sodium glutamate

NBG No bloody good
NBI Nothing but initials
NDA Non-disclosure agreement
NFG No f***ing good
NIC National Insurance contribution(s)
NSA No strings attached

OED Oxford English Dictionary
OMG Oh my god
ONO Or nearest offer
OOO Out of office
OOP Out of pocket
OPEX Operational expenditure
OTC Over the counter
OTT Over the top
OXO Gravy granules

P&L Profit & loss
PCM Please call me / Per calendar month
PDA Public display (of) affection
PDF Portable document format
PDQ Pretty damned quick
PFI Private Finance Initiative
PIN Personal identification number
PLC Public limited company
PMO Project management office / Program management office
POD Pay on delivery
POS Point of sale / Piece of s**t
PPC Pay per click
PPE Politics, philosophy and economics (what the Cabinet did at Oxford)
PSA Pleasant Sunday afternoon
PTC Propensity to call / churn / cry
PTO Please turn over

QED Quod erat demonstrandum (‘Which had to be demonstrated’)
QTD Quarter to date
QC Quality control

R&D Research & development
REM Rapid eye movement / Band name
RFP Request for proposal
RIP Requiescat in pace (‘May (s)he rest in peace’)
ROI Return on investment / Republic of Ireland
RPI Retail price index
RRP Recommended retail price
RSI Repetitive strain injury
RTFM Read the F***ing manual (particularly used by IT support staff)

SAE Stamped, addressed envelope
SBD Silent but deadly
SEO Search engine optimisation
SEP Someone else’s problem
SFA Sweet Fanny Adams / Sweet f*** all
SLA Service level agreement
SNAFU Situation Normal: All F***d Up
SOB Shortness of breath / Son of a bitch / Standard operating bullsh*t
SPOC Single point of contact:
STD Sexually transmitted disease / Subscriber trunk dialling
STFU Shut the f*** up
SWF Single white female

TBA To be announced
TBC To be confirmed
TBH To be honest
TLA Three-letter acronym /Three-letter abbreviation
TLC Tender loving care
TPA Tissue plasminogen activator
TTFN Ta ta for now

UHT Ultra heat treated
URL Uniform resource locator
USC Up shit creek
USCWAP Up shit creek without a paddle
USP Unique selling point
UTC Under the counter

VAT Value-added tax

WFH Work from home
WRT With respect to
WTF What the f***
WYSIAWYG What you see is almost what you get
WYSIWYG What you see is what you get
WYSINWNWYG What you see is nowhere near what you get
WYSINWYG What you see is not what you get
WYTYSYDG What you thought you saw, you didn’t get

YTD Year to date
YOLO You only live once
YOY Year on year

If you’ve made it this far, I’m astonished. You have character, commitment and probably too much time on your hands.

Feel free to send any favourite work-based TLAs for me to add to the list. And I hope you’ll start making your own.

Fun with TLAs?

I recently got my girlfriend to ask the waiter for a KBG. He looked at her blankly. KBG in my world at that moment meant ‘KnickerBockerGlory’. It meant nothing to him.

To add insult to injury, they’d stopped serving. So I didn’t even get a NBC (nice black coffee). Still, we left him a DST (decent-sized tip) anyway.

You see the fun you can have with TLAs? It’s especially good if you don’t get out much.

I’m told some of my other blogs are funny – especially the A-Z of office jargon and How mindfulness can save your career

There’s more about me here. And you can follow me @simlington on Twitter

With thanks to Briony Wilson and Tallulah Godivala.

Copyright 2014 Simon Henry @simlington

8 reasons why being a fool can help your career and life

by Simon Henry @simlington

April Fool’s Day may be over, but the foolish life is still available to us all.

There are two schools of thought on this subject. .

1. ‘Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something.’ (Plato)

2. ‘Everyone likes a nice arse; no-one likes a smart arse.’ (Normal people)

No-one really understands what Plato was on about, whereas nice arses are universally admired.

To underline this point, here’s the Rear of the Year site. It has women’s and men’s bottoms on – so it passes the sexism test.

Flavia Cacace's and Vincent Simone's bottoms. (They won the prize in 2013.)

Flavia Cacace’s and Vincent Simone’s bottoms. (They won the prize in 2013.)

I’m glad we’ve got that cleared up.

Here’s how being a fool can help your career and your life:

1. You don’t get promoted beyond your abilities. There are enough people in this awkward position. Have a look round your office. You don’t need to join them do you?

2. People like fools – especially if you know some jokes. Here are some of the world’s best jokes to get you started.

3. People feel sorry for you. Sympathy is good – it means you’re less likely to get the crap jobs.

4. You’re not trusted to do important things. This means you don’t have to do presentations in front of scary bosses.

5. If you’re right all the time, people stop listening to you and think you’re a smart arse. That’s why I always put mistakes in my blog posts.

6. If you have really strong principles, you become predictable. And people stop listening to you. I don’t really believe that. Or maybe I do.

7. Being a fool leaves lots of room for self-improvement. As the famous Zen phrase goes:

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.‘ (Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind). One brilliant thing to do to improve your life is to start practising Mindfulness. No joke!

8. You don’t have to use horrible office jargon – like ‘Going forward’, ‘Thought leadership’ and ‘Boulders on the runway.’ Here’s the full A to Z of horrible office jargon as used in 2014. It makes really uncomfortable reading. Read it, then forget it. Fools don’t need this stuff. Only the successful do.

What about if those eight strong reasons haven’t convinced you?

If you’re still undecided about the virtues of the foolish life, read this from Cole Porter’s Be A Clown:

All the world loves a clown. Act a fool, play the calf, And you’ll always have the last laugh.

Okay, so he could have rhymed ‘play the calf‘ with ‘take a selfie in the bath‘ (Ricky Gervais does this – and everyone loves him.)

Ricky Gervais looking gorgeous in the bath

Ricky Gervais looking gorgeous in the bath. He tells his followers they can use hispictures as porography

So lighten up, be a fool, and be happy. 

And in case you’re interested in April Fool’s jokes, there’s a site about them.

Some of the classics are:

In 1957, BBC’s Panorama said a mild winter had eliminated the spaghetti weevil pest, and Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. Here they are harvesting it:

Spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. (BBC prank.)

Spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. (BBC prank.)

In 1962, Swedish telly announced that viewers could convert their black and white tellies to colour by pulling a nylon stocking over the screen.

And in 1992, National Public Radio said Richard Nixon was running for President again with a new slogan: ‘I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.’

Remember, it would be foolish not to read some of my other blogs.

Don’t be shy – follow me @simlington for more nonsense and here’s a bit more about me – if you’re still a bit nervous.

Verbal tics, cliches and catchphrases – to be brutally honest they’re basically not alrighty

Office Space

Office Space: It would be just great to watch it again. Nice matching tie and braces, annoying boss man

By Simon Henry @simlington

If you don’t want to be despised by your colleagues in the office, it’s probably best not to say ‘Yeah?’ really aggressively at the end of each sentence.

You’ll find they say ‘No’ to you quite a lot.

Saying ‘to be honest’ to your partner may arouse the suspicion that you’re not 100% trustworthy.

Saying ‘Exactamundo’ whenever you agree with your boss will not help your chances of promotion. Not exactly the best way to advance your career.

Verbal tics are everywhere and most of us use them. Lots. More than we realise.

So here’s a list of those you may want to avoid if you want a more successful career and a more stable personal life.

My definition of a verbal tic is: ‘A word or phrase repeated unconsciously to the potential annoyance of the listener.’

See how many you recognise or – worse – use yourself. Then read on for tips on how to reduce your Verbal Tic Count – and enjoy a better life.

I’ve ignored TLAs (three letter acronyms) like LOL, WTF and TBH as well as most catchphrases from TV and film. I plan to dig these rich seams in a later post.

And I’m not talking about people who suffer from disorders like Tourette’s. I’m talking about those of us lucky enough to be able to control what we say – but just don’t bother.

The list of shame is this way

Actually – Means nothing, actually.

Alrighty – Okay for Flanders or Ace Ventura. Not okay for real people. Ever.

Am I right or am I wrong? and Am I right or am I right? – After several minutes expounding a point, the speaker uses either of these tics, not as a question, but as a statement that they are indeed right.

And so on and so forth – You could just say ‘et cetera’ and save four words.

And what have you – This begs the question: ‘What have I?’. Again ‘et cetera’ saves time.

And what not – Ditto.

As far as I know – Surely implied in whatever you say without you spelling it out?

As I said before – Tip: You probably don’t want to remind your listener that you repeat yourself.

As you said or Like you said – Sycophantic and grating when used more than once in a conversation.

At the end of the day – Classic cliché. ‘At the end of the day it gets dark.’

Lego

LEGO is awesome. Saying ‘awesome’ in an office should be a sackable offence

Awesome – Yes we all love LEGO. But use this if you’re over 13 and you won’t be loved.

Basically – Classic filler. ‘Basically’ just adds three syllables to your sentence, basically.

Cool – Was cool in the 70s for a bit. Great, Super and Magic fit into this category too. Reminders of the Bee Gees aren’t good.

Don’t mean to be rude / disrespectful / awful … – Yes, we’re all just waiting for the but aren’t we?

Do you hear me? – Aggressive and likely to make your listener stop hearing anything you ever say again.

Do you understand? – Ditto. Only worse.

Dunno – The teenager’s answer to 97% of questions. Forgiveable in teenagers. Unforgivable if you aspire to be an intelligent, mature, reasonable person.

Eh? – Used at the end of a sentence is extremely annoying. Isn’t it, eh?

Enjoy! – It’s likely they won’t after you’ve said this.

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera – Used to cover ignorance. You don’t actually have other examples to bolster your argument, do you? Fine if you’re quoting from The
King And I, though.

Exactly or Exactamundo – Used instead of ‘Yes’ to emphasise agreement. ‘Yes’ is better. In the same category as Perfectamundo and Correctamundo.

Friend – Doesn’t really mean ‘friend’ at all – and is much slimier than the more neutral salutation tic, ‘mate’.

F**ing – I have actually heard people say: ‘F***ing. I f***ing went this f***ing morning and I’m f***ed if I’m f***ing going this afterf***ingnoon.” Overuse destroys
the effect of this otherwise excellent word.

Frankly – Similar to ‘honestly’, but possibly even more insincere.

Hello? – As in ‘Hello? Is anyone at home?’ Aggressive and likely to ensure no-one’s in.

Honestly – So your other comments are dishonest?

Um and ah, erm – Classic tics. The majority of us use them when we’re thinking of a word or phrase. You could try to replace them with nothing. Silence is wonderful. Awkward silence is even better.

Innit / Innit tho’ – Urban slang deriving from ‘Isn’t it?’ and ‘Isn’t it though?’ Pretty ugly, innit though?

It is what it is – What? Of course it is, or else it would be something else, wouldn’t it?

Know what I’m saying? – It’s not a question is it? It’s just a tic, know what I’m saying?

Know what I mean? – No I probably don’t. Popularised by Frank ‘Know what I mean, Harry?’ Bruno. Nice chap, but not really a conversational role model.

Newcastle Brown Ale, like

Newcastle Brown Ale, like

Like – The habit of repeating this word several times in a sentence gained notoriety in Beverley Hills 90210. Only acceptable when used in a Geordie accent. ‘Get us a
brown ale, like’ sounds absolutely splendid, like.

Literally – As in ‘You could literally knock me down with a feather’. ‘Literally’ expands sentences with redundant syllables that make you sound very silly.

Listen or Look – Patronising attempt to control a conversation. First popularised in the UK by the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, attempting to sound sincere when he didn’t believe a word of what he was saying.

Myself – Used instead of I. ‘Myself and Steve will be taking questions.’ Gulp.

… Not, as used in Wayne’s World – ‘We’ve hit all our sales targets … not’ isn’t very professional. No wonder you’re in trouble.

Not a problem / Not an issue / No probs – Lazy Customer Service speak. On the plus side, ‘Not an issue’ rhymes with ‘Mogadishu’.

Right? – It’s not a question. Just an annoyance – a patronising, insulting annoyance, right?

So (at the start of a sentence) – ‘So’ is a conjunction, so it begs for something before it to make sense of what comes next. Use it to introduce a new concept or argument and you are being so annoying.

Sort of / Sorta – Doesn’t add anything to what you’re saying: ‘Are you OK?’ ‘I’ve got a sorta headache.’ Unless a sorta headache is a type of migraine. Dunno.

That would be great – Used by bosses favouring the passive-aggressive Just F***ing Do It management technique. It would be great if you watched Office Space.

The thing is – Usually a prelude to bad news.

Think about it – Implying that unless you tell me to think, I won’t actually do it myself.

To be honest – Implying the things you say without this tic are lies.

To be brutally honest – Implying the other things you say are particularly dishonest.

Trust me – Is unlikely to bolster the listener’s confidence in you.

Yeah? – When said aggressively at the end of a sentence will make your listener think ‘No’.

You know? or Y’ know? – Even if I did know, you’re not really asking me. You’re just padding out your sentence, you know?

We are where we are – See ‘It is what it is’.

Whatever – Thankfully waning but sometimes reappears in the mouths of bosses who are trying and abysmally failing to be ‘cool’. Accompanied by the two thumb and index finger ‘W’ sign. You really don’t want to be like them, do you? The answer is No.

End of the List of Shame

So now you’re thoroughly ashamed at how many you use, what can you do to stop yourself?

Some people say you should record yourself when you do a speech or a presentation. That sounds boring and hard work.

You could just accept that’s the way things are. This is more likely – but you’re better than that. You’re reading this blog, so you’re an intelligent, reflective, thoughtful person.

The third thing to consider is Mindfulness.

Instead of yabbering on mindlessly, you could try to be more conscious of what you’re saying.

Then, when you’re about to say ‘To be brutally honest it’s like literally awesome’, you may just keep your mouth shut instead. Silence is golden.

And if you can’t be bothered with that, you can have good fun counting the number of times other people use their favourite tics. Tic Tac Toe as a fun alternative to office Buzzword Bingo.

Awesome.

My A-Z of Office Jargon is growing by the week and I hope this list will develop similarly. Please let me know if you think I’ve missed any out.

You can get an email alert whenever I publish a new post. If you’re on a mobile you can sign up below. If you’re on a computer, sign up at the top right-hand of the page.

Feel free to follow me @simlington if you like too.

With thanks to Lisa Henry, Christine Brucker, Eleanor Goold, Dennis Hodgson and Scott C Allen for their suggestions.

Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014

An A to Z of office jargon

Blue Sky

Blue Sky

by Simon Henry @simlington

English is a very flexible language – but many of the following examples of office jargon in 2014 stretch it to snapping point.

The merely hackneyed ‘blue-sky’, ‘thought shower’ and ‘pushing the envelope’ have been replaced by the pseudo-scientific ‘transitioning’, ‘operationalise’ and ‘matrix’.

Steve Jenner of the Plain English Campaign says: “Some people think that it is easy to bluff their way through by using long, impressive-sounding words and phrases, even if they don’t know what they mean.”

What follows isn’t an amusing list of made-up, office words like Deja-brew (asking if people want a drink when you know they’ve just got one) or Social Notworking (messing around on Facebook and Twitter instead of working). The full list of these in the Daily Telegraph is worth a read – if only as light relief from the following roll of shame.

This is rather a list of words and phrases that are used every day in British offices. They really are used – often without irony.

In the spirit of constructive criticism rather than hopeless bitching, I’ve given alternatives (or translations) to the jargon. Where I’m genuinely lost for words, I’ve used a question mark – the punctuation equivalent of a horrified shrug.

2017 update: Speak in brackets – As an aside
(Thanks to Joanna Cannon, author of The Trouble With Goats And Sheep, for this howler.)

Activity plan – To do list
Actions – To do list
Alignment – Agreed
All hands – Department meeting
Annual leave – Holiday
Asap (when pronounced ‘Ayesap’) – Now
Ask (As in ‘It’s a big ask’) – Difficult.

BAU (Business as usual) – Normal
Backfill – Providing cover while someone is on holiday. Originally an engineering term for filling a hole this is now used as follows: ‘If Charlie’s on annual leave, we’re not going to backfill him.’
Backburner – We’re not going to do it
Ballpark – Estimate (See also ‘Finger in the air’)
Bandwidth – Time or inclination
Baseline – See Re-baseline (it’s funny)
Basis as in ‘On a weekly basis’ – Every week or Weekly
Belt and braces – Do the job properly
Best endeavours – Not a chance
Best in breed – Best
Best in class – Best
Big ask – Impossible
Boiling the ocean – ?
Boulders on the runway – ?
Bunfight – Disagreement, not usually actually involving buns as weapons.

Can we …? – Actually means ‘Can you …?’ And, after you’ve performed the task, the person who said ‘Can we?’ will mop up any credit that’s going.
Cascading up – ? (Though this does illustrate a fundamental ignorance of the laws of physics.)
Catch up – Meeting with the boss (Turns the average British stomach for its false informality and fake friendliness.)
Challenging – ‘S**t’ or – if you don’t like swearing – ‘Crap’
Channels – Departments
Close of play – Home time
Coalface – Desk
Comfort break – Toilet
Competencies – Skills
Conceptual copywriter – If someone describes themselves in this way, beware. They think they can write. They can’t.
Cross-functional representation – ?

Deep dive – Look
Decisioning – Deciding
Deploy – Use
Diarise – ‘We’ll talk about it later.’ Use the extra syllables in this instance to make a real sentence – they’re worth it. If you don’t believe me, say ‘diarise’ out loud. It’s revolting.
Drill down – Find out
DRs – Direct reports – Workers
Ducks in a row – ?

Evolution not revolution – Used as a rhyming excuse for bad decisions or an inability to make a decision at all – with a basic misunderstanding of biology and politics thrown in.
End of play – Home time
Evangelist – Creep

Feeding back – Opinion
Finger in the air – Estimate
Fire fighting – Not saving lives but rather panicking about emails and computers.
Fire off an email – Email (verb)
Fit for purpose – OK
From the get go – From the start
Font door process – Process

Game changer – A change
Game plan – Plan
Going forward – In the future / next
Go no go – Yes or no
Granularity – Detail
Greenlight – Used as a verb, as in ‘This iteration is fit for purpose, so we’re greenlighting it’. How about ‘approve’?

Head count – Workers
Heads-up – Explain or a warning that the crap is about to hit the fan.
High altitude view – ?
HODs (Heads of department) – People who are paid more than you.

Incentivise – Encourage / Pay
Ideation – ?
In flight – Now
Interface – Meet
Issues – Problems

JFDI – Just f***ing do it – Actually this is pretty good.
Journey – This has moved from the office to the wider world. Olympic medal winners have journeys now. So do people who reach the semis of The Great British Bake-Off.
Just – As in ‘Could you just update that spreadsheet?’ Ten hours later you’re still working on it.

Kit – What people who don’t really understand technology call hardware.
KPI – Key Performance Indicator – Target
Knowledge specialist – Ignoramus

Land – Finish
Learning – Lesson
Legacy – Old
Leverage – Use
Lock down – Agree
Long pole in the tent – Has a double meaning: 1. Something that physically holds up a structure  – like one of those tents with a pole in the middle. 2. Something that holds up (delays) a project. This second use was popularised by George W Bush. Both uses make you sound dumb and extremely annoying.
Loop in – Include
Loop back – ?
Low-hanging fruit – A tired and massively overused cliche meaning stuff that’s easy to do, like setting up the out of office message on your email or accepting a meeting request. If someone uses this phrase, they’re probably really struggling with life.

Manage expectations – No
Market place – Market
Matrix – Spreadsheet at a push, more likely to be a list.
Mitigation – Excuse
Move things forward – Do some bloody work.

Narrative – Making a push for the title of Worst Corporate Word, 2014. Means ‘history’ or ‘story’ in ‘creative’ industries. A real spine-tingler when heard in context.
Negative space – Used by designers who don’t have any imagination.
No brainer – Obvious

Offline – Later or (more likely) never
Operationalise – ?

Paradigm shift – A useful expression in physics. Used to try to lend gravitas to questionable ideas.
Partnering – Joining
Piece – As in ‘This will lock down the learnings in the ideation piece.’ – Part. Please don’t use ‘piece’ – it sounds really, really, really horrible in this context.
Ping – Send
Pre-prepare: Prepare
Polish this bad boy – ?
Price point – Price
Proactive – Active
Productise – ? Create ? (Ugh.)
Put lipstick on a pig – Similar to ‘Polish a turd’. Usually used in the negative, meaning ‘Bound to fail’. True of the vast majority of projects.

Q1, Q2, H1, etc – Used to give the impression you understand the science of numbers, accountancy, etc when you don’t really, do you?
Quick one – As in ‘Just a quick one: Could you dig out the numbers for Q4 last year?’ Ten hours later, you’re still stuck at your desk. (See ‘Just’).
Quick win – Simple task

Radar – Used by people stuck in an office who failed to get an exciting job that actually uses radar, like fighter pilot.
Rationalise – Fire, or sack
Reach out – Get in touch. (US jargon creeping into the British offices in 2014.)
Re-baseline – We’ve completely screwed up our forecasts and are starting again, but we’re going to pretend that it’s not a monumental cock-up and that it was  planned all along.
RAG status – Means Red, Amber, Green. Things are usually Red – meaning screwed.
Regrettable spend – “Oh sh**ing hell. We’re seriously f***ed.” (New for 2014.)
Resource – People
Real time – Time
Road map – Plan
Roll out – Start

Space – As in ‘We’re leaders in the sub-£3 pre-cut, pre-prepared, pre-washed salad space’ – Market. Like ‘piece’ above, it just sounds horrific in this context. Serious contender for title of Worst Piece of Office Jargon Ever.
Sign off – Finish
Shirt size – Estimate
Skill set – Skill
So – When used as a preamble to a conversation or email is very irritating. Particularly if it doesn’t follow on from anything.
Solutionise – Solve or Fix
Stakeholder (management) – Pain in the arse. Blame Blair for this with his ‘stakeholder society’ – shorthand for selling more council houses.
Strategic – Usually an excuse for poor, unjustifiable decisions that have been demanded by a boss with an inflated ego.
Strategise – Plan or organise.
Step change – Change
Step up to the plate – Do
SME (Subject Matter Expert) – Unlikely they’re an expert in the subject matter.
Sunsetting – Ending or finishing.
Synergies – Force incompatible things together in an attempt to save money. (The consequence is almost always huge extra expense and frustration when things don’t work out as planned.)

Tactical – We haven’t got the money or skills to solve this properly.
Take ownership – Own
Thought leadership – Oh Christ. This is scarily Orwellian. LinkedIn-speak. Horrible, horrible, horrible.
Throwing peanuts from the sidelines – Being annoying
Touch base – Meet
Transformation – Change
Transitioning – Making people redundant.
Triage – Assess. (Used as a verb. And in case you think the BBC comedy W1A overstates things, it doesn’t. Real people do say: ‘We need to triage this shit.’)

Up to speed – Tell
Usability – A discipline that should help make websites easier to use. Actually a discipline that uses jargon like ‘satisficing’, ‘heuristic’ and ‘ribcaging’.

Value engineer – Do it as cheaply as possible
Value Add – Justify
Value steering – ?
Vanilla – Normal
Verticals – Areas

War Room – Meeting room (usually smelling of BO and cheesy feet).
Weaponise – ?
Wheels come off – Broken
Win win – Win
Workshop – A talking shop where no actual work is done
Work stack – Work
Work stream – Work
Wake up call – Warning

Zero in – Focus

If you’ve made it this far, you may be pleased to know this list will be updated as fashions in office jargon change. See it as a testimony to the suffering of innocent office workers who just want to hear plain English – and as a plea to those who use jargon to cut it out. Please!

If you enjoyed this, perhaps you’ll enjoy my Defence of the three-letter acronym and the Verbal tic anthology

With thanks to: Joanna Cannon, Emma Godivala, Cate Nisbet, Daniel James, Mike Dale, Scott Allen, Sarah Jones (@smart_desk), Andy Tyack, Adrian Royles, Jon Maher, Heather Timm, Kevin Marrow, Gordon Brown, Paul Key, Charlie Ross, Paul Denman, Briony Joan Wilson, Tallulah Godivala, Sue Ambler, James Pittendreigh, James Nash, Nicholas Harman. Stephen Kirkby and Eva Finn.