Finally, this is the last part of the Business Idioms series of "75 common business idioms." Make sure that you can choose the category that you are interested in, as these are sorted by category so you can master the American workplace jargon.
Put in that Extra Effort
Below we have two ways of expressing putting in extra effort.
49. Out on a limb
Related: Go the extra mile
Going “out on a limb” means you are exerting extra effort to put yourself in a risky situation to accomplish a task. You could go out on a limb to stand up for your coworker in a difficult situation which would risks your own job. You are putting your job on the line to stand up for your coworker.
The idiom “go the extra mile” means putting in extra effort to achieve something. You could go the extra mile by adding an unrequested but useful feature to the software you are developing.
When in Meetings
The following phrases are especially useful during meetings at work.
50. Beat around the bush
The expression “beat around the bush” means discussing a subject without getting to the point. This often involves the speaker implying the point and wishing for the listener to understand the point without the speaker directly addressing it.
Say you are a designer with a large amount of work at your company, and a coworker of yours wants to request something of you but feels guilty adding to your workload. That coworker might bring up the topic of the project he is working on and talk in a roundabout way about it but not directly request the work he needs of you until you say, “Don’t beat around the bush, and tell me what you need.”
51. Skip to the chase
The casual phrase “skip to the chase” means to get to the point quickly without spending time on the less important details. For instance, say you are in an all-hands meeting where each team is to summarize what they are working on. The executive in charge of the meeting may tell a team that is taking too long explaining to skip to the chase to save time. The phrase can be interpreted as rude if the speaker is not close to the listener of the expression. Another variation of the phrase is “cut to the chase.”
52. Cave in
If you “cave in,” you are submitting to something you were initially against. Suppose your team told your manager to stop outsourcing front-end development to an agency because of quality issues. At first, your manager is against it but later caves in and stops the outsourcing. Your manager gave way to your team's opinion which she was initially against.
53. Jump the gun
The idiom “jump the gun” means to take an action too hastily or to come to a conclusion prematurely. For example, suppose your coworker may jump the gun by starting on a project before waiting to get approval for it first. The origin of the expression comes from when an official starter of a race fires a gun to signal the start of the race. If a racer starts running before the gun fires, then he or she has jumped the gun.
54. Across the board
The idiom “across the board” means something applies to everything. For instance, your boss may say that there were new changes across the board in terms of company regulations. That means there were new changes to every aspect or part of the company regulations. The expression “across the board” comes from horse racing where the “board” means the betting board.
Common Phrases used in Silicon Valley (Tech Industry)
Silicon Valley in the United States is notorious for having some of its own jargon. With more than 50% of Silicon Valley workers being from abroad, clear communication is key for high efficiency. Hence, it is helpful to know some idioms and expressions commonly used in the tech industry.
55. Pick your brain
The expression “pick your brain” means to get ideas or information from someone on a topic. For example, you may be in a meeting about automobile engines which your team specializes in. Your CEO, who does not know much about the engineering of car engines, may say, “Let me pick your brain for a moment.” This is a casual way for the CEO to ask for more information on the topic.
56. Hustle culture
“Hustle culture” involves working hard to the point where you are pushing yourself to your limits. Many Silicon Valley bosses prefer their employees to hustle and work overtime than to get off work on time.
If your coworker works so hard that she tires herself out, you could say, “She hustled too hard and burned out.” Burn out and a high turnover rate can be a prominent problem with hustle culture.
57. Burn rate
“Burn rate” is the rate at which a company spends money at a loss. This is not to be confused with “burning out” or “burnout rate.” A company is burning money if they are not breaking even or making profit. For instance, your manager might inform your team that the company’s burn rate is high and that there will be layoffs soon. This means the company is losing money and is looking into letting go of employees to cut costs.
When something is “lookupable,” that means you can search for more information about it on the Internet. Your manager may mention something briefly in a meeting and say, “It’s lookupable, so you guys can read up about it on your own time.”
59. Red ocean and blue ocean
“Red ocean” means a saturated industry with cut-throat competition while “blue ocean” means an industry that is not well-known or not yet discovered with little to no competition. Your team may be developing a new product that has never been introduced to the world before. That makes a blue ocean waiting to be pioneered.
60. Stealth mode
Being in “stealth mode” means the company is maintaining a state of confidentiality. For example, your company may be in stealth mode about a new technology it is launching later this year. No information on this technology or any related intel is to be leaked, especially to competitors.
A “disruptor” is a company that has some technology or a product that is revolutionary and will significantly affect the market. This usually applies to groundbreaking, state-of-the-art technology that will be seen as a threat to competitors. Your company may be a disruptor if it releases a high-demand proprietary product or service.
62. Scaling or going global
“Scaling” means implementing change in order to grow your company to a wider audience or clientele. Similarly, “going global” means expanding your company to countries aboard. Your company would be scaling and going global if it opens new branches in other countries.
63. Corner the market
To “corner the market” means to become the leader in an industry to eliminate the threat of any potential competitors. Your CEO may want to quickly corner the market on augmented reality before it gets further saturated. That means he wants to become the top provider of augmented reality services or products before another company does to monopolize the market.
The following are several marketing-related phrases that can help you get some marketing terms under your belt.
64. Word of mouth
When something spreads through “word of mouth,” it means it is spreading through spoken conversations. Your company may have a product that spreads mostly through word of mouth rather than online advertising, billboard signs, or television commercials. The strong point of word of mouth is that it is free, unlike the other marketing methods mentioned.
65. Get your foot in the door
The expression “get your foot in the door” means to get initial contact to potentially get more opportunities. You can get your foot in the door by starting to come in contact with a potential partner company which can lead to a future collaboration that can be beneficial to both sides.
66. Cold call
A “cold call” is an unsolicited form of contact to gain a potential customer or partnership with another company. You could make cold calls to new potential customers by simply calling by phone, emailing, or visiting them in person without prior contact or appointment.
67. Warm lead
“Warm leads” are potential customers who are already aware or have been following your product or service. An example of a warm lead would be a person who is following your company’s Instagram account. This potential customer is showing interest in your product which you could then turn into revenue by marketing to this person; you could give exclusive discounts for followers of your page to target these potential clients.
68. Create buzz
“Creating buzz” means making people excited about something. Another alternate way of saying the phrase is “generate buzz.” Your marketing team could generate buzz about a new movie coming out by running trailer advertisements on various platforms before the movie’s release. This would get people hyped up about the movie and look forward to the opening day.
69. Selling point
The “selling point” of a product or service is its most attractive benefit that would entice people to purchase it. For example, the selling point of your company’s non-stick frying pans could be that they remain scratch-free for at least 10 years.
The Social Side of Working at a Company
Lastly, we have some idioms and phrases related to the social aspect of working at a company. A large portion of your career will involve interacting with others and maintaining professional relationships. Here is a taste of some of the social side of the workplace.
Related: Kissing up to someone, brownie points
“Brown-nosing” is when someone acts in an excessive and obsequious way to gain the favor of someone else, usually a superior in the corporate setting. For example, you may have a coworker named Jane who brown-noses the CEO by always complimenting his clothes or hair style every day. Another way of saying brown-nosing is “kissing up” to someone. Jane is a brown-noser who is kissing up to the CEO to get on his good side.
Meanwhile, “brownie points” are social points that are given to someone who has done a good act that pleases someone else. For example, your manager may say to you, “You get brownie points for remembering my birthday when everyone else forgot.” These points are an invisible award that are not tangible but are mentally noted.
71. Read between the lines
The expression “read between the lines” means to interpret the implied meaning of actions or words rather than taking them at face value. For example, your manager may tell you and your coworker in a sarcastic way that the two of you are very lively. If you read between the lines and gauge the situation, you may come to the conclusion that your manager was trying to tell the two of you to quiet down.
72. Let’s take this offline
When someone says, “Let’s take this offline,” they want to speak about the matter in private at a later time. Suppose you are in a meeting, and you mention an idea that your superior previously rejected. Your superior may say, “Let’s take it offline after the meeting,” which means he wants to discuss the matter separately and not in front of other employees.
73. BS it
Related: Wing it, play it by ear
To “BS” something means to do a poor quality job at it by making information up in order to complete the task. Meanwhile, to “wing” something means to improvise and do something without proper preparation or practice. You could BS a business report by making up the components just to get the job done without much effort. You could also wing a presentation by not properly preparing for it and improvising on the day of.
To “play something by ear” means to go through the action on intuition and instinct rather than preparing for it beforehand. This involves dealing with the situation spontaneously and improvising. Similar to winging your presentation, you could play it by ear and figure it out as you go rather than doing extensive preparation.
74. Red flags
Related: Under the table, pull some strings
“Red flags” symbolize that there are problems with something. For instance, you and a coworker could find out that some unscrupulous acts of bribery are at play at your company. Your coworker might say, “Well, that’s an obvious red flag” to point out this serious issue at your company.
Something that is done “under the table” means that it is done in secret. This usually involves illegal acts. From the previous example, you found out there was some bribery going on under the table at the company.
To “pull some strings” means you are manipulating certain factors in a situation to get favorable results. An executive at your company can use her power and pull some strings to get someone she does not like on a personal level demoted or fired. She is using her position of authority to get something she wants. This saying originates from puppets that you can control and manipulate with strings.
75. Go over someone’s head
Related: Go behind someone’s back
To “go over someone’s head” means to go to someone in a higher position to get some benefit. For example, your manager may have rejected your product idea, so you decide to go over his head and talk to the CEO about it.
In a similar vein, to “go behind someone’s back” is to take an action without someone knowing. With the previous example, you are going behind your manager’s back and talking to the CEO. Your manager has no idea that you are talking to the CEO, and he will be unaware of it unless someone informs him of it at a later time.
Are you an international student or a non-citizen looking for a job in the US or UK? Check out our articles to find out tips about preparing a resume, working visas, and interviewing, etc.
- How to Get a Job After Graduation for International Students
- How to Write a Good Cover Letter
- How to Write a Good Resume
- How to Write a Job Application Emails (With Samples)
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