Talking the Talk

You’ve done it—you’ve used our resume and interview tips and got hired. Awesome! Already you’ve had your first day, and you’re excited to have a meaningful job. You love the office environment, and your co-workers are eager to help you. But everyone around you talks differently than you’re used to—and you’re asking yourself questions like “what does “reach out” mean,” or “how can it be a level playing field if we’re inside in office”? The language they use is so different than what you are used to. Wasn’t this job supposed to be in English?

Feeling frustrated about this business lingo is a normal part of acclimating to office culture. Businesses have developed a type of communication that reflects their expectations for professional behavior. We thought it’d be helpful to touch on a few key examples of corporate language.

Reach out: this means to contact someone. This can be done electronically by email or by calling the person. Sometimes it might mean walking down the hallway and knocking on a door. Either way know that it means to contact someone. For example, you might hear this phrase used as in “Reach out to Donna in HR about the onboarding paperwork.”
Moving forward: this means to proceed, usually with the future in mind. It can be said in anticipation “What do need to move forward with this project?” or it can be said as a command “Moving forward, make sure you contact me about any changes to this document.”
Action items: these are things that need to be done. They’re like a to-do list for the office. They usually are mentioned after meetings. It’s up to you to ensure your action items are accomplished. You may hear it at meetings as part of a question, “Moving forward, what are the deadlines for these action items?” or as a statement “Please reach out to Darius in Sales about the action items we discussed.”
Lots of moving parts: this phrase is often heard when a project has a lot of different steps. It also may mean that a project is going to require collaboration with other departments in your office. It is usually said something like “Can you think of any way to streamline productivity on the Warren Project? It has a lot of moving parts.”
Best practices: every office has its own identity. Like you, offices function with their own preferred method of doing things. “Best practices” refers to the accepted way of doing something in your office. It can be said as a question as in “What are the best practices for this assignment”? Or as a statement “Moving forward: be familiar with best practices for action items that involve a lot of moving parts”.
Level playing field: a level playing field is a field in which everyone has a fair and equal chance of succeeding. While not all of the baseball teams will win the World Series, every player has a chance to win because the rules are equal. However, if a field had a slope the game is already unfair. But a level playing field ensures that the winning team will win because of their perseverance and dedication and not because they had an unfair advantage over the other team. This is often said as a statement “Moving forward, how can we level the playing field for this project?”
CC: in office work environments email is the lifeblood of interoffice communication. Your manager is responsible for a lot of different projects, and he or she need to be kept in the loop about what you’re working on. CC (short for carbon copy) helps ease the pressure on your manager because when you CC them, they will receive a copy of your email. If you’re confused about where to find the CC box, it’s usually in a dialog box below the “To” field of your email, and it works the same way, too—just type the email address you want to receive the CC. CC may be used in a sentence like “Reach out to Shantel in Marketing. Please CC me on all communication regarding action items moving forward. This project has a lot of moving parts, and I want to ensure everyone has a level playing field for this project.”

This list is by no means exhaustive. There are whole books that are available about office slang. Pro-tip: Google is always your friend if you don’t know what something means. Each office culture may be different, for example: while some say “moving forward” other offices might be accustomed to “going forward”. However this list of office terms above will give you a leg up on the type of communication necessary to enter office conversation. With a little patience and a little bit of learning, you’ll be talking the talk in no time.

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