“Office-isms” Decoded

August 31, 2016

How much time do you estimate is wasted during your average workday by just trying to clarify what people say, expect and need? That number’s probably not a zero… which means you’re taking precious time out of your day to try to find the “Office Life Decoder Ring” in the bottom of your cereal box just so you can finally understand what on earth Jamie from Accounting was really asking for in that rambling email. Fed up with all the doublespeak, business jargon and tired catchphrases? You’re not alone.

We asked our colleagues at Staples Business Advantage, along with our customers, what annoying “doublespeak” they hear the most often at the office… and what those phrases really mean once you put on that decoder ring. Here are just a few of our least favorites:

What they say: “Can I see your project so I can leverage what you’ve done?”
What they mean: “Can I copy your work so I can save time for important things like Facebook and Candy Crush?”

What they say: “Let’s socialize this before making a decision.”
What they mean: “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so let’s make sure we cover ourselves by asking everyone.”

What they say: “We’re going to pivot on the direction of this…”
What they mean: “We were completely off-base with our strategy and/or execution but don’t want admit it, so we will continue to waste resources on this project until everyone important forgets about this initiative.”

What they say: “Let’s talk about this offline.”
What they mean: “No one else on this call cares about this, so stop wasting their time.”

What they say: “Thoughts?” (at the close of an email or meeting)
What they mean: “I’m not comfortable making a decision so I’m putting the burden back on you.”

What they say: “I have an open door…”
What they mean: “... but PLEASE keep it to yourself.”

What they say: “Let’s prioritize these tasks.”
What they mean: “Let’s go over this list with an understanding that I still want them all done today.”

What they say: “What can I do to help?”
What they mean: “I want to seem like a team player, but PLEASE don’t take me up on it.”

What they say: “Can you take a quick look at this?”
What they mean: “This is going to take a while, hope you’re prepared.”

The business jargon hall of fame:

Even though we got a lot of responses (more than we could list here), there were a few we got more than others. Who made the list of infamy?

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