The Basics of Business Lingo
An Introductory Guide to Corporate Slang for the Up-and-Coming Career Kid
Working in professional environments since I was eighteen years old has taught me a lot about business etiquette and corporate culture. After completing my first year of university, I stepped into a summer internship at the company where my father is a highly respected Product Manager. Whatever I did reflected on my Dad, so I had to be on my A-Game and learn how to pull off a professional persona. From immersing myself in a mature crowd of professionals I learned how to engage in conversation from casual internal communications, to business dinners with clients, to presenting ideas in a meeting and often the most challenging – how to compose an email.
Different industries and companies each have their own unique ways of communicating, and what is acceptable in some workplaces may not be in others. In any new job it’s important to observe coworkers’ communication and follow suit when conducting your own.
I currently work for a large company with an office of over 300 people, and though we are energetic, friendly, and casual overall, we still conduct our conversations professionally.
Here’s a few terms thrown around an office which can help you become acquainted with the lingo of business professionals, and correctly interpret the urgency or importance behind a simple request.
Plan B can be a very misleading term, as it leads us to think that if the almost-impossible Plan A does not happen, we have an alternative to comfortably substitute in its place. Although having a Plan B mapped out is a great way to show initiative in case sh*t hits the fan, this far less favourable option is more like a “last resort” for employers. The bosses have an idea and it’s your job to execute and make it happen. This safety blanket B should never be used as an alternative unless it is really only your option… if your office sets on fire and a brigade of monkeys are sent to extinguish it – and all of this was out of your control.
When you need to “follow up” with someone in the business world, it often implies that everything got a little too hectic and this particular matter somehow slipped under the radar… when it’s used in past-sense. For example “I need to follow up with Dave about the Peanut Butter Cups Ad for Deliciously Edible Magazine”.
It can also be used in a future-sense to suggest to someone that this matter is important and if they do not deal with it in a timely matter, you will “follow up” with them in a day to get your answer. In either case the “following up” should be dealt with as a priority as it usually pertains to something which has sat long enough to become urgent.
We need a final decision and we need it now. When someone says “please confirm that we will be putting donuts out during our meeting rather than a vegetable tray” it means that that person is on their way to get this meeting catered and needs to know whether to stop and the Grocery Store or the Bakery.
Changing your mind after “confirmation” means they will go out of their way, waste gas, and potentially have a dozen non-refundable donuts which they will make you eat every single one of. Don’t take this literally – but apply it to your next business conversation and the matter at hand when someone asks you to “confirm” a choice or action 😉
Reconnect or Reconvene
The term “reconnect” or “reconvene” means to end the current conversation or meeting and revisit the issue at a later time. In my experience, this is usually used by person in the highest point of authority in the matter to give their team a break and allow their brain cells to tackle the issue when they’re fresh again. It’s a relief to hear the term reconnect in many circumstances, as usually the matter we are addressing has become so convoluted that we need a lunch break or to sleep on the it to come up with a solution to execute our proper judgement.
Keeping someone “in the loop”
When you’re requested by someone to “keep them in the loop” that’s business slang for “The task is yours to solve, but keep me keep them up-to-date with what’s happening”… in the event that all hell breaks loose they have a record of what’s been going on and can possibly help save the day if necessary.
Keeping someone in the loop is a great way to have extra support and keep parties informed of a larger scenario in case it gets to the point where you need back up. “CC”ing people on emails is a good way to do this. However, be cautious of how many people it is necessary to involve, as the more opinions you have on a certain subject, the more challenging it becomes to make a compromise.
When someone asks you for “the status” on something, this is your cue to make it a priority to deal with the task at hand. In the event the request cannot move forward, you must conduct a thorough investigation to see what the hold-up might be as to why it’s not completed. When you’re asked for “the status” it means someone is inquiring, and therefore they will also be following up.
Would love to hear your feedback
If you’re new to business lingo, chances are this is a phrase you will use and rarely if ever hear requested of you. This is the proper way of placing the urgency to a manager, executive, or someone in a higher role who has the power to approve your request which you so desperately require. For example, you submit a proposal to a director on your team which needs their green-light before you can move forward. Often times you’re not really looking for any constructive criticism, but really just the authority to move your project to the next level. You’re aiming for a “looks great” or “sounds good”, however, you’re opening yourself up to an in-depth analysis.
Let me know your thoughts
When someone says “let me know your thoughts”, it is usually a courteous way of inviting someone’s opinion when they already have a solid plan in place. The type of feedback they’re expecting or counting on is an agreement or even praise for their call to action, and they wait in anticipation for your response.
We apologise for the urgency
This can be interpreted in the most business-sense possible as, “provide us with what we need now… or else.” Part of accomplishing tasks in the corporate world is sending many reminders and emphasising the importance of reviewing and receiving materials in a timely manner in order to meet deadlines.
When someone says that they “apologise for the urgency”, there is usually an ultimatum in hand. For example, “We apologise for the urgency, but we need this reviewed by 3pm [otherwise we will have to move forward without your input].” Time management and organising priorities accordingly is crucial in the business world, but when you hear those words paired with an ultimatum, move that task to the top of your list!
Now that you know your basic vocabulary….
Interpret with care, use with caution.
While the use of Business Lingo may make you sound smart and professional, it is important to know that it can often be taken advantage of.
“Jargon masks real meaning,” says Jennifer Chatman, Management Professor at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others.” – Forbes Magazine.
Some employers or managers may be aware that their new recruits have studied or brushed up on their corporate jargon to sound more knowledgeable in communications or meetings. Therefore, it is important to support your point with credible facts and not just a cleverly-crafted sentence.
Learn the basics of business lingo and especially your company’s specific slang, but never underestimate the power of going the extra mile to support your communications with logic and reason. That will really impress “The Big Guys Upstairs”.
Love from Lala.
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