Corporate jargon is not a secret language. You just need a bit of imagination (and our assistance) to break it down!
Picture this: you received a message from your manager that reads, “I’m sorry, but what your team is doing is boiling the ocean. Have another thought shower and redo the proposal.” As a fresh graduate who has been in the workplace for only two months, you find yourself struggling to keep up with business-y expressions your boss likes to use in text messages and emails. The funniest (yet also the saddest) thing is that, individually, you understand the meaning of every word in those expressions, but when put together, they just make no sense to you. And they’re nowhere to be found in the dictionary!
Business jargon terms, like idioms, need to be interpreted figuratively. They’re primarily used among businesspeople to communicate unique ideas and directions, so they’re subtle in meaning, requiring people to comprehend them with a business mindset rather than a dictionary. To speed up your learning of business jargon, we rounded up eight commonly used terms and expressions along with explanations for you in this article. Got your notebook ready? Read on.
In the technology world, bandwidth, or network bandwidth, to be precise, refers to the capacity of information that a transmission medium (e.g., computer) can handle within a given amount of time. In business settings, bandwidth means the capability or resources a company or individual has in dealing with a situation, task or project.
Example: “I don’t think we have the bandwidth for this exhibition because we have too many projects at hand before Christmas.”
Boil the ocean
Remember the message you read at the beginning of this article? Before replying, you should first understand what “boil the ocean” means. This one’s a bit tricky, as the meaning of this phrase changes in response to contexts. You can use it to describe a time-wasting project or comment on the action of undertaking an unworkable and unnecessarily difficult task. Given these explanations, you must read this phrase in context to avoid miscommunication.
Example: “Don’t boil the ocean by including too many products in the upcoming Easter marketing campaign; we can’t manage that.”
Do more with less
Compared to other terms introduced in this article, “do more with less” is more straightforward because it literally means to “complete something with as few resources as possible”. Next time your company doesn’t have the “bandwidth” for an event or a project (I hope you still remember what bandwidth means), you may suggest doing more with less.
Example: “The sales team needs five people from our team to help out their campaign. We need to do more with less then.”
On my plate
If you’re hungry when reading this article, you may instantly relate this phrase to food, picturing a steaming steak beautifully served on a plate in front of you. Sadly, what’s actually on the plate is not food but work, as businesspeople use this phrase to express that they are preoccupied with too many important tasks.
Example: “I passed the project to one of my colleagues because I’ve got a lot on my plate.”
Over the wall
While imagination does help when it comes to understanding business jargon phrases, you may need a bit more than that to understand this one. In corporate environments, throwing something “over the wall” refers to sending information to customers. For easier memorization, simply imagine your office door as the wall. When you’re emailing documents to your clients outside the office, you’re passing information to them “over the wall”.
Example: “The bill is ready; pass it over the wall.”
Believe it or not, businesspeople can be rather poetic. Instead of saying “brainstorming”, they call a group discussion or meeting a “thought shower”. It is when they come up with innovative and brilliant ideas for product promotion and advertising campaigns. Since “brainstorming” and “thought shower” are similar in meaning, these two phrases are often used interchangeably.
Example: “The marketing and sales teams are having a thought shower in the meeting room.”
Peel the onion
What will you get after peeling an onion? Its heart. Bringing this to the business world, when you’re dealing with a problem, you should try to “peel the onion” by unfolding and resolving the problem layer by layer and getting to the bottom.
Example: “We figured out the reasons behind these complaints after peeling the onion.”
Whether you drive or not, you don’t need a car to understand this last term. When a car is in the car park, it’s not in use for a while. Similarly, when a company parks a project or a plan, it’s terminated and may (or may not) be resumed at some point.
Example: “Customers aren’t ready for the update yet; I’m afraid we need to park it.”
Here comes the end of your first business jargon class! There are hundreds and thousands more business terms and expressions out there, but you can’t learn them all at once. Treat them as idioms or even a new language and learn them bit by bit, and you’ll understand them better at some point. However, before/when you use any of them, look for alternatives first because not everyone understands them. Most importantly, don’t overuse any of them, or you risk annoying your colleagues and clients.
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