60 Common office phrases used at work – including some overused and annoying cliched jargon

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In the era of people using internet slang and acronyms, the twisted expressions and office jargon don’t amaze people anymore. Many people get averse to these euphemisms, cliched words and complain that, an average worker becomes deafened to these expressions.

Did you know? One of the reasons employees pay less attention in meetings and conferences is due to redundant use of non-contextual phrases.

These work-faux-paus have become a prominent part of our speech, we don’t even realize the extent and intensity of their usage. Some of these words, however, are relatively apt and need no replacement.

Therefore, it is crucial to understand the meaning of these idioms and jargon used at work place.

Common office phrasesThe most common phrases

  1. Win-win: A situation or result that is beneficial/good for everyone (involved).
  2. Think outside the box: Thinking differently, creatively, outside of normal possibilities. common office phrases
  3. Going forward: From now on. In the future.
  4. Reach out: Attempt to communicateMetaphorically to move forward or upward in order to touch.
  5. Touch base : Briefly make or renew contact with someone.
  6. Give 110% : To give beyond the standard, to exceed expectations. Mathematically, irrational expression!
  7. Paradigm Shift: An overused term since last century, to mean “fundamental change”, “critical adjustment”.
  8. At the end of the day: Unless it is really the end of the day, say ”Finally”, “Ultimately”.
  9. Raise the bar: To expand the limits and reach for the top.
  10. Ball is in your court: It is up to you to make the next decision or step, (it took a while to realize that we were playing a game). common office phrases
  11. Synergy: Basically just a buzz word for team work. The combined effort and result of two or more organizations or people is greater than the sum of their separate effects.
  12. Best of breed: Used to describe the best representative of a breed, a category, a product.
  13. Take it to the next level: to make something better.
  14. It is what it is: To mean, “It is not going to change”.
  15. The bottom line: Meaning, the essential point, inference from something,  (also, Bottom line refers to a company’s net earnings, net income or earnings per share (EPS).
  16. Scalable: The capability of a process to handle a growing amount of work. Or a potential to be enlarged to accommodate that growth. More here.
  17. Down the Road: At a further, later, or unspecified point. Similar to Down the line.
  18. Learn the ropes: Learning the basics of something.
  19. Let’s hit the ground running: To be immediately ready to work when a new activity starts.
  20. Ball-park figure: A rough numerical estimate or approximation
  21. Downsizing: make (a company or organization) smaller by eliminating staff positions.
  22. No-brainer: Something that is obvious and easy to comprehend with no effort.
  23. Open the kimono: A Japanese term for accurately sharing all the necessary and relevant and information.
  24. The elephant in the room (or corner): A large obvious issue, everyone is aware of, but no one wants to talk about it (a sore spot).
  25. Benchmark: is a standard measure or point of reference against which things are compared or assessed.
  26. Let’s take it offline: Instead of randomly saying that, mention specifically, “After the meeting, during the break”.
  27. Let’s circle back: Is an expression for “Let’s discuss this issue at a later time”.
  28. In the pipeline: Something being in process, in queue.common office phrases
  29. Bite the bullet: An expression for “ Make the tough decision” “take a difficult step”’.
  30. I have a lot on my plate: Having more work or responsibilities beyond one’s capability. Then please take a bigger plate next time.
  31. Drastic times call for drastic measures: When you are extremely desperate you need to take extreme actions.
  32. Low-hanging fruit:To pick an easy task or anything that is easily attainable (with little effort). I wish you could pick the low hanging fruit and try to make your speech simple and less complicated.common office phrasescommon office phrases
  33. Back to the drawing board:To start something all over again from the planning process/stage.
  34. The 80-20 rule: It is a rule of thumb that states, “80% of outcomes can be attributed to 20% of all causes for a given event”. In business, the 80-20 is often used to point out that 80% of a company’s revenue is generated by 20% of its total customers.Therefore, the rule is used to help managers identify and determine which operating factors are most important and should receive the most attention, based on an efficient use of resources. Read more: Here
  35. Netnet: is a value investing technique developed by Benjamin Graham in which a company is valued based solely on its net current assets. More here. In general, the term is used to infer the final result of something. Ex: Net-net what do we have pending?
  36. Feel a bit under the weather: Slightly ill. 2 words are more comprehensible and time-saving than the 6-word phrase and there you are speaking all about being productive.
  37. Read between the lines: To understand something that is not obvious or something that is not directly communicated. I read between the lines and all I see is empty white space.common office phrases
  38. My hands are tied: The inability to take any action. You can still run your mouth I guess!
  39. Bite off more than you can chew: Undertake a task that is way too big. I was just improving my productivity in eating.
  40. Curiosity killed the cat Being inquisitive can lead you into an unpleasant situation.
  41. The fact of the matter is This basically says, “What you’ve presented until now was not fact and I’m about to correct you.”
  42. Beat around the bush: Avoiding the main topic. Not speaking directly about the issue. That’s what happens when I ask for a raise or promotion.
  43. Back to square one: To go “back to square one” means to start something over again. This is the reason, I’ve never been able to get out of the box and (think outside the box)
  44. Let the cat out of the bag: To reveal information that was previously concealed. I never knew pets were allowed here.
  45. Push the envelope: To push something to the limit or extend the limits of what is possible.
  46. Move the needle: Make noticeable difference or significant progress in something. Everybody wants to “move the needle,” but without direction this is a waste.
  47. Take with a grain of salt: This means not to take what someone says too seriously. Would you mind a sugar cube? Cos that’s what is best for my coffee.
  48. It takes two to tango Actions or communications need more than one person
  49. Hit the nail on the head Do something exactly right, hitting the right target.
  50. We can’t boil the ocean: Is to express an unreasonable task, or an impossible situation.common office phrases
  51. Throw him/her under the bus: “to betray or sacrifice a person, particularly for the sake of one’s own advancement, or as a means of safeguarding one’s own interests”. Source
  52. Let’s take a deep dive: to understand in depth to find the inner sense or hidden (not so obvious) information.
  53. 360-degree thinking: Itis a way to maximize success and minimize failure. Thinking from all perspectives and people (public, customers, clients) with empathy. Considering the effects and repercussions of your actions before committing to them. More here
  54. Hit the nail on the head:Being 100% accurate in saying or doing something.
  55. Power to the elbow:Getting additional backup information to make your case stronger.
  56. Golden parachute:It is an agreement between a company and an employee (usually upper executive) specifying that the employee will receive certain significant benefits if employment is terminated.
  57. Barking up the wrong tree: Looking in the wrong place. Accusing the wrong persons
  58. Best thing since sliced bread: A good invention or innovation. A good idea or plan..Wait what, didn’t you ask us to think outside the box and be creative?
  59. Don’t count your chickens before the eggs have hatched: Do not make plans for something that might not happen.
  60. Let sleeping dogs lie: Let a situation be as it is – since any disturbance would result in trouble or complications.


The prevalence of office jargon masks the reality, exaggerates or in some cases expresses irony. However, boomers, Gen X and Millennials continue to use these, infinitely, to

  • make the truth sound more palatable / mask the impact of actual word
  • seem like an intellectual
  • hide their incompetence
  • sugarcoat the words
  • express irony
  • impress boss and colleagues

“The terms often have little or no relevance. These phrases intentionally create ambiguity. They are humdrum and when excessively used, are annoying too”.

The inherently “busy”-ness nature of everyone’s work makes it even more tedious to interpret the significance of these buzz words.

Therefore, if you want your message heard, just CTC cut the crap! Be direct and simple. Avoid riddles at work.

Try expressing it in your own words rather than using the century old phrases.

Have we missed any phrase here? Please let us know in the comments section.

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Have we missed anything here, please post in comments.

Rajeshwari Ogirala

Rajeshwari is a writer, Biz Development Manager. Passionate about people and personal development. Believes in sharing her knowledge and instilling positive work culture in people.

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