Tips for Your First Job: Learn the Lingo

Initech Milton Have you seen my stapler

Every group has its lingo, its variations of common phrases that has nuances that bond everyone a little closer. The language defines the culture of the group. Of course if taken too far, to the point of controlling language, it is often seen as a cult. Still, every group, every family, every industry has certain phrases and keywords that define ever so sharply who they are, what they do, and what they stand for.

Initech TPS Report Cover SheetOne of the challenges of moving to new groups, particularly into the work force for the first time, is the initial need to recognize the change in nuances of commonly understood words and phrases, and then being able to understand what the concepts mean in the new environment.

Adding to the confusion are dialects, accents, and regional lingo. These are completely separate from business lingo. Keeping track of them all takes time and exposure. But there are some universal basics that vary from what you’ve been taught and grown accustomed to during your college years.

NOTE: What follows are ideas, tidbits and hypothetical examples I’ve read about. While they may be recognizable to some, they are not included to call out any specific individuals, as they apply to many, and are fairly universal. I’m just sayin’ …. (oh, and I also want to add that this is a humorous tongue and cheek piece. These concepts and definitions do not reflect my own views.)

Theory vs. Reality

Lumbergh - Office Space - TPS ReportCollege business and marketing courses teach theory. You know what theory is? The absence of human behavior. Keep the ideas in your head, but understand that in the real world there are opinions, experiences, egos and steadfast determination that defy rationalization. This is the basis for much confusion throughout the early years of your career.

Logic. Just scrap that word from your vocabulary. You won’t be able to effectively apply it ever again. While you will cling to the word, try to use it nearly every day, you will fail each and every time. Again, that whole human component really has a way of messing up the application of that.

Geometry. Remember when you were back in high school and you said forget it, I’m never going to need that again? Guess again. You will use it most days as you try to figure out the quickest route from point A to point B. But of course, a straight line NEVER plays into this, because the direct route includes going past a co-worker’s office or cubicle who will stop you, talk to you, distract you and likely give you their work to do.


  • I Took a Bullet For You

Old Definition: I covered for you on a mistake and took the heat because I know we can fix it and you’re a valuable team member and I didn’t want to have a blemish on a simple issue we can solve quickly.

Business World Definition: I was at the ammo store, picked up a couple loose bullets and had one engraved with your name on it. Wanna see the barrel where I put it?

  • I’ve Got Your Back

Old Definition: I will support you on your approach, decisions and chances that you’ll take because you are one of my team members and I respect and trust your abilities in this case, because we’ve discussed this at length and have agreed, and because I believe in you.

Business World Definition: I will be standing right there, behind you, holding you up, and possibly restraining your arms, while someone else senselessly beats the crap out of you with sucker punches.

  • Be Patient, It’ll Work Out

Old Definition: In time the best will rise, the bad apples will be sorted out, and your loyalty, dedication and contributions will pay off.

Business World Definition: Shut up so it buys me some time to come up with  another excuse why I’m overloading you without compensation.

  • Trust me

Old Definition: What I’m telling you is true, you can believe me. I verified it and present it as fact, and will stand by it. My word is my bond.

Business World Definition: You’re required to according to the employee handbook, otherwise it’s insubordination and grounds for disciplinary action up to and including termination. Questioning me is clearly indicative of innate trust issues on your part regardless of my behavior or the utter ridiculousness of what I am telling you to believe.

  • Team work

Old Definition: Working together to achieve a collective goal, taking advantage of the unique skills that each accomplished member brings and instilling respect and camaraderie to create magnificence.

Business World Definition: You do it. Stop whining, I have real work to do.

  • My Door is Always Open

Old Definition: If you have questions, concerns, or would like one-on-one mentoring, please feel free to come in and ask, because as you grow, we all do, and a key part of leadership is mentoring new talent so we can all work together and grow as a team.

Business World Definition: I open it really quickly after it smacks someone on the way out, but mainly so I can spy on who’s walking the halls, because if you’re walking somewhere it means you’re not working (even if it’s to a meeting) and slacking off.

There are so many more, so please feel free to add your old word/business world definitions.