Office jargon: Everybody complains about it; everybody laughs about it. But how many people know what it really means? While it’s easy to roll your eyes and make fun of the nonsensical phrases otherwise sane colleagues throw around at the office, jargon sometimes hides an important message that you can’t afford to miss. Here’s a cheat sheet of five examples of office jargon…and what they’re really trying to tell you.
#1 “I need you to make a paradigm shift.”
A “paradigm” shift is a model or framework for looking at something. If your boss tells you that you need to make a paradigm shift, what he really means is, “You’re looking at this all wrong, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll start looking at it the right way…my way."
#2 “Let’s take this offline.”
You usually hear this during a meeting when two people are having a back-and-forth conversation that no one else is participating in. The implication is that the conversation is so off-topic that you shouldn’t be wasting the entire group’s time with it. But what it really means is, “Let’s talk about this privately so I can tell you why you’re wrong,” or – even worse – “Stop undercutting me in front of all of these people, dammit!”
#3 “That’s not in your wheelhouse.”
Used this way, “wheelhouse” refers to your area of expertise. It gained popularity when people started saying it about themselves – “That’s not in my wheelhouse” – as a way to get out of doing something. But it’s not a phrase you want somebody to say to you, because what it really means is, “You don’t know how to do this, and I don’t think you have a chance in hell of learning it.”
#4 “I guess I’m going to have to put the hay down where the goats can get at it.”
Goats aren’t known for being smart – or agile. You can offer them all the hay in the world, but if you put it out of reach, they’ll starve. As a part of office jargon, “putting the hay down where the goats can get at it” means breaking things down to the very simplest state. So if your boss says, “I guess I’m going to have to put the hay down where the goats can get at it,” it really means, “I’ve been trying to explain this to you for 30 minutes, but you’re clearly too stupid to get it unless I break it down for you.”
#5 “Stop boiling the ocean.”
Wondering why anyone would ever attempt to boil the ocean? That’s exactly the point. Whether you’re playing solitaire on your computer, conducting way more research than is necessary just to kill time, or pursuing a project that is never going to happen, if your boss tells you to stop boiling the ocean, what he really means is, “Stop wasting time.”
Corporate jargon seems to be here to stay. And it’s basically about ego. It’s like a set of secret passwords that you only know if you belong. Most of it’s harmless – or, at worst, mildly annoying – but, in these five situations, you need to be able to cut through all of the “code words” and really understand what the boss is saying.
Image source: Flickr via Gavin Llewellyn