For reasons unknown, people working in office environments tend to use a lot of very odd and often annoying business jargon phrases. For a newer or less fluent English speaker, it can be extremely confusing to hear someone say something that clearly means something else, without explaining it, and have everyone else understand and go about their business.
That said, if you plan to work in an English speaking country like the UK, been familiar with British business jargon is a key part of improving your communication skills. Let’s unpack some of the most commonly used (and abused) business jargon in the UK:
What this means is “let’s meet in person, outside of this call or meeting, and discuss the matter further.”
If someone says they want to do some blue sky thinking, they want to hear ideas and suggestions that would be feasible in a perfect world where there are no limits or constraints.
This sounds horrible, and is only marginally less horrible when you learn that it signifies doing something objectionable, unpleasant, or morally wrong that will have a positive effect for the business or organization.
This is the same thing as “brain storm” – to come up with a whole bunch of ideas about a problem, situation, or concept.
This is an older one: it means to look at a situation creatively or in new or different ways than have traditionally been tried.
Bringing the world of surveillance into the office, this phrase means that you are aware of a situation or fact and are keeping an eye on its progress.
In the U.S. this is usually “close of business,” and it means the same thing: The end of the working day.
This signified ensuring that everyone involved in a project or piece of work has the same information and is in agreement about how to proceed.
The onion is a problem or situation, and peeling it indicates that it needs to be looked at in detail, to determine the various layers of information and work involved.
When something (such as an investment, a process or a service) earns its keep, breaks even, or pays for itself, it is said to wash its own face.
If asked to “circle back” with a supervisor or colleague, you should complete your work or assignment and then consult with the other person to review what you’ve done and determine how to proceed.
As it sounds, to action something simply means to take action: do it or get it started.
To contact someone to seek their input, feedback, advice, or participation related to a work project, problem, or issue.
This is a big deal – a turn of events, a result, or a new idea or approach that completely changes the context or outcome of a project, event, or market. It can be intentional, something that is put into motion by a person, or it can be an external occurrence or event beyond the control of the people you are working with.
This is a weird one for sure. If something “ladders up” to or with something else, it entails connecting a specific thing to a larger theme or topic. For example, you might be asked how your department’s project or initiative ladders up with the strategic goals of the company.
This is a slightly awkward and stilted way to say “in the future” or “from now on.” Your boss might ask you to change the way you do something going forward, so be sure to do it that way every time from that moment on.
Similar to “peel the onion,” this indicates that some investigation needs to happen to determine the root causes or underlying implications of a situation, issue, or problem.
People in a helicopter get a great overview of everything beneath them, and that’s what your colleague is hoping to achieve if they want to get the helicopter view of something. Don’t get bogged down with details, just provide the general idea of what’s happening.
Imagine you’re in an elevator with a prospective client. You have approximately 90 seconds to tell them about your business proposal or about what you do, in a simple and clear manner. That’s your elevator pitch.
If you’re IN the loop, it means you’re aware of everything that is going on related to a situation, project, or issue. If you’re out of the loop, you do not have all the information you need to understand what’s going on.
The best way to learn business jargon is to use it in real conversations. Sign up for a trial English lesson with one of our Skype English instructors and we will teach you how to learn business jargon, idioms and slang without memorization.