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Your Handy 2018 Guide To Officespeak

Ever sit in a meeting with no clue what people are talking about?
07/20/2018 02:08pm ET | Updated July 21, 2018
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Never mind studying Mandarin or Russian in college, thinking that fluency in a second language will better equip you for your first job in the real world. Well, it might. But the language you might really wish you’d studied is Officespeak, that dialect of business code words that everyone in your company seems to know while you’re surreptitiously typing “what does ‘all-hands’ mean” into Google.

Here’s a short guide to Officespeak to help you through those first few uncomfortable days when you understand maybe half of what is said to you. As with learning any foreign language, though, total immersion produces the best results.

So, forget about going OOTO and let’s just onboard, shall we?

Onboarding

This is the process by which new employees are brought into the company. It can include everything from showing you where the bathrooms are to giving you training in the various software programs you will be using. Onboarding generally includes getting a company ID, signing up for benefits and being taught to do the job you were hired for.

In the old days, onboarding went by the self-explanatory name “new employee orientation.” And onboarding has an evil twin: offboarding. Yeah, it means what you think it means.

Suggestion: Maybe someone should explain what onboarding is when new workers are onboarded. Or better yet, managers could come up with something that doesn’t remind people how much they hate airlines.

Bandwidth

“Bandwidth” isn’t just a term used when you transmit a signal. In Officespeak, it means having the energy, time or mental capacity to deal with a situation.

“I don’t have the bandwidth to take on that project” is something a new employee might not want to say out loud.

OOTO or OOO, etc.

Easy-peasy: “Out of the office” or “out of office.” You set up an auto-reply message to this effect when you aren’t in a position to respond to emails quickly.

As long as we’re playing alphabet soup here, you may hear other acronyms tossed round the office. “OKR” is Officespeak for “objectives and key results.” “RFI” is a request for information, while “RFQ” is a request for a quote and “RFP” means a request for a project or proposal.

All-hands

When an all-hands meeting is called, it means everyone is invited and/or expected to attend ― as in the naval order “all hands on deck.” Many companies want their workers to feel included and in the know, so they hold these big meetings and include people from all departments.

A large company will likely hold quarterly all-hands meetings and an annual all-hands meeting at the end of the year. (Another term you may see used with all-hands is “Q1,” “Q2,” etc. The Q stands for “quarter” and the number indicates which quarter of the year it is.)

An all-hands meeting may also be called if there is some big news breaking about the company. Those are the scariest ones, because everyone assumes it’s to announce “downsizing” or “rightsizing,” which is Officespeak for layoffs. Know that if you are going to be laid off, it probably won’t happen at an all-hands. That’s what small, sad offices are for.

Huddle rooms

Huddle rooms are conference rooms that spent too much time in the clothes dryer. They are so small, they probably shouldn’t have been taken away from their mothers. Think phone booths, if you are old enough to remember those, although most huddle rooms are regular offices that have been sliced and diced into shells of their former selves.

A huddle room generally only seats two people, but will likely be equipped with audio, video and display system technology worth more than you earn in a year. They are used by people who want to get together for impromptu and scheduled meetings to collaborate.

Note: You won’t be the first employee to mishear “huddle” room as “cuddle” room. But no, you are not expected to cuddle within the workplace. In fact, it is generally discouraged.

Let’s action this

Aside from indicating the speaker doesn’t understand the difference between nouns and verbs, this means your idea has been approved and you’ve gotten the go-ahead to implement it. We might once have said you’ve been “greenlighted.”

Circle back

This is a version of “checking in,” albeit with a slightly more passive-aggressive punch. If your boss is circling back with you, it means she wants a progress report. It’s good to make sure you have one for her.

Bumping

When you resend an email that was ignored the first time you sent it, you are bumping it ― presumably to the top of the recipient’s inbox. Bumping is like an electronic form of nagging. There’s always a risk, when you bump, that you will annoy the recipient so much that he’ll just keep ignoring you. The way around that is to hit “reply all,” which ensures that the recipient’s bosses also see it. (In general, though, be judicious about your use of “reply all,” a great power that must be used for good.)

Keep in mind the etiquette of bumping: Never bump an email more than once, and acknowledge that you are bumping at the top of your bumped email.

Pinging

A ping is a quick alert that you send someone, generally by text, Slack or Gchat. It’s basically a reach-out that’s quicker and more urgent than email. You may be asked to ping the boss when your report is finished.

Pings are brief and to the point, and function like an alert system.

Loop in

In most modern office cultures, the attitude is you can never have too many cooks in the kitchen ― certainly not if one of them could feel left out and then become the project’s chief critic in retaliation. So when you loop someone in, you are adding them to the discussion. You may be able to ignore their input, but they should still be looped in so they know what’s going on.

This rule may be straight out of kindergarten, where we learned it is always better to include than exclude.

Touch base offline

Let’s say you are in a meeting and something like a private personnel matter is raised. Your manager may suggest that the conversation be moved offline ― in other words, go private. To touch base offline is t o have a one-on-one meeting.

Socialize

Socializing, in Officespeak, has nothing to do with making chitchat at the watercooler. In fact, there may not even be a watercooler, and even if there was one, it wouldn’t be filled with LaCroix, so who cares about it anyway?

But we digress. In an organizational setting, to “socialize” means to spread an idea around and get other people’s buy-in.

Drill down and deep dive

If you’ve been asked to “drill down,” your manager wants more information. To drill down is to dig deeper, investigate more fully, explore the situation in greater depth. And when you do all that, it will be said that you took a “deep dive” into the problem.

Pain points

A pain point is a problem that needn’t even be real. Most businesses create opportunities by coming up with solutions to problems. Those problems are pain points.

Case in point: For most of history, supermarkets did not provide antiseptic wipes for customers to clean off the grocery cart handles. Now they do. And why is that? Somebody awfully clever figured out that germs and grime on the cart were a pain point, and created a product to fix it.

Your manager also may ask you what the pain points are for your job. She’s asking what’s bothering you, and giving you an opening to discuss ways to streamline company procedures and work more effectively. It’s as good a time as any to bring up the LaCroix shortage.