Office jargon

Mastering Office Jargon 101

Ever walk out of a meeting feeling like everyone spoke a secret language? Remember when the Infosys co-founder N. R. Narayana Murthy mentioned "moonlighting", and you had no clue?  and you were like, "Uhhh...moon what?" Yep. The same thing happened with my department head the other day. Super awkward.  Yeah, we've all been there, right? 

This is your cheat sheet for cracking office jargon. We'll break down what these terms mean and where they came from, and even throw in some examples to keep things clear. So you do not get into those awkward silences again! Let's master the office jargon. By the end, you'll thank me for conquering this workplace skill.

Moonlighting: A Balancing Act

This was the first buzzword that I'd heard, which left me silent. Moonlighting refers to holding a second job outside of regular working hours. The term was popularized in the mid-20th century, reflecting the need for additional income streams in an era of economic flux. For instance, "Despite his demanding career, Sam began moonlighting as a freelance graphic designer to pay off his student loans."

Dry Promotion: No Monetary Gain

Most of us must have experienced this. A dry promotion is typically a promotion without the expected pay raise. This term reflects the sometimes harsh realities of corporate budget constraints. "Andrew received a dry promotion to 'Lead Coordinator,' but with no salary increase, it felt like a pat on the back instead of a step up."

Touch Base: The Art of the Check-In

This was the buzzword that was thrown at me at an official meeting. Touch base is to make contact with someone briefly to update or confirm details. The phrase likely originates in baseball, where a player must touch the base to make a play. In the office, it's about ensuring everyone stays updated. "Let's touch base next week to discuss the project's progress" is a common way to keep communication channels open.

Keep Me in the Loop: The Circle of Information

No! We are not talking about any fancy gym equipment. Keeping someone in the loop means continuously informing them about developments or decisions. It's about ensuring that all are aware of the current status of work. "As we move forward with the merger, keep me in the loop about any changes," a manager might request, emphasizing the importance of transparency.

Cut to the Chase: The Drive for Efficiency

This doesn't mean you're chasing something. Cut to the chase is a phrase that allows one to skip the unnecessary details and get to the main point. Originating from the early film industry, where directors were advised to cut extraneous content and focus on the chase scenes, it now serves as a call for brevity in business. "We're short on time, so let's cut to the chase: how much is this going to cost?" is a sentence that shows the urgency and directness of this phrase.

Stay Ahead of the Curve: To Stay Ahead

This is an easy one. Staying ahead of the curve means anticipating and acting upon future trends and changes. This phrase, with its origins in statistics and probability, now symbolizes proactive strategy and innovation in business. "By investing in renewable energy now, we're staying ahead of the curve and setting industry standards," a forward-thinking executive might say.

Go the Extra Mile: The Pursuit of Excellence

We've all done this before; going the extra mile is about doing more than is required or expected, often to ensure customer satisfaction or project success. This phrase likely stems from the biblical injunction to "go the second mile," which encourages going beyond one's obligations. "Our team went the extra mile to ensure the product launch was a resounding success" reflects the dedication and hard work that this phrase means.

Close of Play: The Final Whistle

It is the same EOD that we use in our daily meetings. Close of play, borrowed from the cricket world, refers to the end of the business day. It sets a deadline for tasks and decisions. "I need your report by the close of play, or it won't be included in the analysis," one might hear in the bustling final hours of a workday.

Move the Needle: The Measure of Impact

Now, you don't move your eyes off this blog. To move the needle is to make a significant difference or to achieve noticeable progress. It's a phrase that likely originates in the analogue gauges of machinery, where the needle indicates the level of performance. "We need a marketing campaign that will move the needle on sales," a marketer might say, seeking good results.

Win-Win Situation: The Ideal Outcome

I heard this a lot while handling clients and in LinkedIn posts. A win-win situation is one where all parties involved gain benefits. The term became popular in the 1960s with the rise of game theory and negotiation strategy. "Our partnership with the environmental group is a win-win situation; we improve our sustainability, and they gain a platform for their cause," a manager might explain.

Low-Hanging Fruit: The Easy Pickings

Does this remind you of the story of "The Fox and the Sour Grapes?" I'm sorry, but you are not even close. Low-hanging fruit refers to tasks or goals that are easily achievable and don't require much effort. The agricultural metaphor suggests picking the ripest, most accessible fruit without reaching too high. "In our first round of process improvements, we'll tackle the low-hanging fruit like streamlining the paperwork flow," a project manager might strategize.

ALSO READ: How To Deal With Office Politics And A Guide To Use It Positively

Bandwidth: Capacity

This term has nothing to do with technology, as you might think. In a metaphorical sense, bandwidth refers to one's capacity or availability to take on additional work. It's a way to communicate if you're overloaded with tasks and unable to accept new assignments. "I'm completely occupied  and don't have the bandwidth to take on another project right now."

Open Kimono: Unveiling the Secrets

You can use this outside the office and sound like a genius. It is similar to the phrase "open book". To open one's kimono means to reveal one's innermost secrets, often in a business context. The phrase, rooted in Japanese culture, suggests transparency and vulnerability. "During the merger talks, we'll have to open our kimono to show them our financials," a CEO might say.

Boil the Ocean: The Impossible Task

This is similar to the phrase "Herculean task", but only that the task is unachievable. Boiling the ocean is an idiom for attempting an impossible or impractical task. It's a caution against overambition and the futility of certain endeavours. "Trying to overhaul the entire IT system in one go is like trying to boil the ocean," an IT manager might say.

Circle Back: The Return to Discussion

Circling back means revisiting a topic or issue later for further discussion or resolution. It's about ensuring that no point is left unaddressed. "We'll circle back to the budget discussion once we have more data," a finance director might plan.

Paradigm Shift: Major Change

This phrase signifies a fundamental change in how things are typically done or understood. It highlights a significant disruption or transformation within an industry or field. "The invention of the smartphone has caused a paradigm shift."

Actionable Items: Tasks That are to Be Done

It refers to specific tasks or deliverables that must be completed following a meeting or discussion. It ensures everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities to move the project forward.  "Let's finalize the actionable items for this week, including finalizing the report draft and scheduling a client call."

Boiling Frog Syndrome: The Creeping Threat

It describes a situation where a detrimental change occurs gradually and goes unnoticed until it's too late. It's a metaphor for complacency. 

"The company suffered from boiling frog syndrome, not realizing the market was shifting until their sales dropped," an analyst might observe.

Synergy: Combine Effort

The creation of a combined effect greater than the sum of its parts. It emphasizes collaboration and teamwork, which leads to a more successful outcome. "The merger between the two companies is expected to create significant synergy by combining their resources and expertise."

Mastering the Corporate Buzzwords

You nailed it! You're now officially a master of office jargon. Now you can confidently "touch base" with colleagues, "stay ahead of the curve," and even "go the extra mile". But please don't go overboard and turn every conversation into a business buzzword, making you look like a maniac. Keep it natural, keep it clear, and most importantly, keep it moving the needle toward success. See what I did there!

Stay confident to conquer those meetings and maybe even impress your boss with your new fluency. You're welcome in advance! Would you like to add some more interesting buzzwords? Do write in the comments below and let the knowledge flow. 

Do you have burning thoughts or opinions? We'd love to hear them! Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below to get the conversation flowing, or feel free to reach out to us at

Komala Rudra

Komala Rudra is a devoted mother and author who explores children's behavior and nutrition, offering valuable insights and practical guidance for parents and caregivers. Her writings aim to nurture healthy habits and stronger connections between parents and their little ones.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest from Opinion