The Devil's Dictionary of Work Life

A crowdsourced book in the making

I’m assembling The Devil’s Work Dictionary with input from fellow business authors, and anybody who’s ever had a job or watched a TV commercial. It sounds like you might qualify!  To submit a definition, please click on the button below and fill out the form.

Below is a long list of potential terms to define including some with sample definitions to get you started.  If you have your own, feel free to submit that as well.

A

B

 

C

D

E

EARLY ADOPTER:

EARLY BIRD:

EARNINGS:

EAT YOUR OWN DOG FOOD:

EDGY:

E-COMMERCE:

800-POUND GORILLA:

80/20 RULE:

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM:

ELEVATOR PITCH:

EMBARRASSMENT:

EMAIL BLAST:

EMERGENCY MEETING:

EMERGING MARKET: An excellent opportunity to lose money without recourse.

EMERGING TECHNOLOGY:

EMOJIS: The feelings you would be having at work if they were allowed.

EMPLOYEES:

EMPOWERMENT: 1) Trying to convince workers they have power they don’t have. 2) The on-going effort to cross-breed a mountain lion and a lamb.

ENGINEERS:

ENVY:

EFFECTIVENESS:

EMPATHY:

EVANGELIST:

EVOLVING: We have no idea where we’ve been, nor where we’re going.

EXCELLENCE:

EXCUSE:

EXPENSE REPORT:

EXPOSURE:

(going the) EXTRA MILE:

 

F

FACT-FINDING MISSION:

(the) FACT OF THE MATTER IS:

FACTORY FLOOR:

FALL THROUGH THE CRACKS:

FAMILY BUSINESS:

FAMILY LEAVE:

FEATURES-AND-BENEFITS:

FEEDBACK: Electrocution by other means.

FINANCIAL MISCONDUCT:

FIRST-TO-MARKET:

FISH-OR-CUT-BAIT:

FOLLOW-THE-RULES: Even if they change hourly.

401(k):

FRAMED DIPLOMAS:

FRATERNIZATION:

FRAUD:

FREE TRADE:

FULL POTENTIAL:

 

G

GAIN TRACTION:

GENDER GAP:

GETTING CONSIDERED:

GETTING SACKED:

GETTING SOME PUSHBACK: Gail-force winds.

GLASS CEILING:

GLOBALIZATION:

GO BACK AND SHARPEN YOUR PENCILS:

GRANULAR: Anal.

GRIEF:

GUILT:

 

H

HAMMER IT OUT:

HAPPY HOUR, n. The practice of going to get tipsy if not downright drunk after the workday ends, a practice that tells you everything you need to know about the degree of happiness felt in the office.

HEADHUNTERS:

HEAVY LIFTING:

HEAVILY-TRAFFICKED SITE:

HELPFUL LINKS: A ten-foot rope thrown to somebody drowning 20 feet off-shore.

HITTING-A-WALL:

HONESTY:

“HOPE YOU’RE WELL-RESTED FROM YOUR VACATION:  Hell awaits.

HOSPITALITY:

HOSTESS STAND:

HOT SEAT:

HYGIENE STATION:

 

I

IDEATION:

“I’LL GET BACK TO YOU”:

IMPROPRITIES:

IMPROVISING:

IMPULSIVE: A boss who calls him or herself pro-active.

“I’M SWAMPED”: Or might in fact be the swamp.

INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR:

INDIFFERENCE:

INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION: A group that watches episodes of The Sopranos while taking notes.

INFRASTRUCTURE:

IN LIGHT OF THE FACT (that . . .):

INSIDER TRADING:

INSTANT GRATIFICATION: What’s the next upgrade from here?

INTEGRATED:

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY:

INTEREST: Interest that compounds daily happens to savings accounts, but plays no part in office life.

INTERNET SURFING:

INTERRUPTION:

IT IS WHAT IT IS:

 

J

JEALOUSY: Not yet time for a little BACKSTABBING.

JUMP-THE-SHARK:

JUNK BOND:

JUST-IN-TIME INVENTORY: A method to avoid paying vendors.

JUST-IN-TIME MANUFACTURING:

“JUST KIDDING”:

 

K

KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK: You won’t be getting promoted this year or next. You’re too valuable where you are, making me look good.

KEY WORKER:

 

L

LANDING A PROMOTION:

LAPTOP COMPUTER:

(being given plenty of) LATITUDE:

LAWSUIT:

LAZY: The conservation of energy until five o’clock.

LEAVING MONEY ON THE TABLE:

LET’S BALLPARK THIS:

LET’S BLUE SKY THIS:

LET’S PUT THIS INTO CONTEXT: Here’s why you’re wrong.

LETTERS OF REFERENCE:

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD:

LIP-SERVICE: A version of customer service too efficient not to also use within headquarters.

LOAN SHARK:

LOBBYING: The sales department on steroids, with the dosage administered by the company’s lawyers.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION:

LOCKDOWN:

LUNCH PROVIDED:

M

MAGIC BULLET:

MAIL MERGE:

MAKE HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES:

MANAGEMENT FAD: Virus introduced by a MANAGEMENT GURU.

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: See BELLY CRAWL.

MASK SHAMING:

MBA:

MEDICAL-LEAVE-OF-ABSENCE:

MEMORABLE: From the Latin, rigor mortis.

MERCHANDISE:

MODEL BEHAVIOR:

MULTI-NATIONAL CORPORATION:

MY BAD:

 

N

NARCISSISM: From Facebook onward, the underlying basis of social media companies’ value proposition.

NDA:

NEPOTISM: Isn’t my baby cute?

NET-NET:

NEW MANAGEMENT SYSTEM:

NEWBIE:

N95 MASK:

NOVELTY (item):

 

O

(the) OFFICE:

ON SALE: Today. Tomorrow. Forever.

OVERTIME:

 

P

PACKAGING:

PARALYSIS-BY-ANALYSIS: The business equivalent of having a colonoscopy.

PARENT COMPANY:

PARTNERING:

PAYCHECK:

PAY DISCRIMINATION:

PENSION: See MODEL-T.

PEP TALK:

PERFECT STORM:

PERKS:

PER MY LAST EMAIL: You’re not paying attention, are you?

PERSONAL CONNECTION:

(my) PLATE’s FULL:

PLEASE LEAVE A MESSAGE:

PLUG AND PLAY:

POSTPONING: A wise move.

POST ONLINE:

POWER:

PPE (Personal Protection Equipment):

PRACTICAL:

PREDATOR:

PRESS COVERAGE:

PRICE:

PRICE BREAK:

PRICE GOUGING: The relishing of a term by colleagues that lets you know you’ve unwittingly joined the Mafia. 

PRICE HIKE:

PRIDE:

PRIVACY:

PRO-ACTIVE: Charging into battle on a sawhorse.

PRODUCT DESIGN:

PROFIT MARGIN:

PROFITS: What makes a GOLDEN PARACHUTE possible.

PROGRAMMING:

PROJECT FUNDING:

PROJECT LEADER:

PROMOTION:

PROSPECT:

PROSPECTUS:

PUBLIC OPINION:

PUBLIC RELATIONS CRISIS:

PUI (person under investigation for possibly having contracted COVID-19):

PUNCHLINE:

PUSHING THE ENVELOPE: What test pilots do, while at your company every new idea has been grounded for years.

PUSH-OVER:

PUTTING IT UNDER LOCK AND KEY:

Q

QUARTERLY EARNINGS: The cliff’s notes version of the corporate Bible.

QUARTERLY TARGET:

 

R

READY-AIM-FIRE:

RE-ALLOCATING: Half-way to acknowledging a mistake has been made.

RECEPTIONIST:

RECIPROCITY:

RED INK:

RED TAPE:

REDUCE COSTS:

REDUNDANT EMPLOYEE:

RE-ENTRY (going back to the office in the era of COVID-19):

REGRETS:

(let’s not) REINVENT THE WHEEL:

RELEVANCY: If only.

RELIABLE:

RELIEF:

RELOCATION: The company moving its headquarters to be closer to the exclusive community in which the new CEO has bought a mansion. In other words, the CEO wants a shorter commute.

REMORSE:

REMOTE: A way of describing your motivation level during a virtual meeting.

REPORT:

REPRISAL: 

RESENTMENT:

RESILIENCE: The latest way of saying “S*** happens.”

RESTRUCTURING:

RETIREMENT BUYOUT PACKAGE:

RETURN-ON-INVESTMENT (ROI): 

REVENUE PROJECTION: A number you give while trying not to laugh out loud.

REVERSE ENGINEERING:

REVIEW BOMBING: Consumers posing as terrorists, or maybe it’s the other way around.

REVISIT (later):

RHETORICAL QUESTION:

RIDE-SHARING:

RIDING HERD:

RIGHT-SIZING: Tacitly admitting you recklessly expanded the company too quickly.

RISING STAR:.

ROBOTICS:

ROBUST: Packs a punch, like a bottle of champagne opened and left for days.

(this isn’t) ROCKET SCIENCE:

ROTATIONAL ASSIGNMENT:

RTW: (return to work scenarios in the age of COVID-19):

RUN IT BY LEGAL: The end of your project.

S

SADNESS:

SAFETY INSPECTION:

SALES:

SALES BOOTH: An objection of derision or pity depending on the conference attendee’s perspective.

SALES PLATEAU:

SALES PROSPECT:

SALES RECEIPT: The life raft the buyer clings to while dog-paddling toward the Customer Service counter.

SALES TARGETS:

SATURATION:

SAVE:

SCREENING MY CALLS:

SCREW-UP:

SELF-DESTRUCT:

SELF-IMPROVEMENT:

SELF-REGULATION:

SELF-SERVICE:

SEAMLESSLY INTEGRATED: A heavy pot-smoker couldn’t have said it better.

(wanting a) SEAT-AT-THE-TABLE: The admission that you’re a toddler.

SECURITY CAMERAS:

SELF-ISOLATION:

SEO (search engine optimization):

SERENITY:

SERVICE-WITH-A-SMILE: Emotional labor that leaves you exhausted but no richer.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT:

SEVERANCE PACKAGE:

SEXUAL HARASSMENT:

SEXUAL INNUENDOS:

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT:

SHAKE-ON-IT: In the age of COVID-19, an extreme sport.

SHAME:

SHOPPERS:

SHOPPING CART:

SHORT-CIRCUIT:

SHOWROOMING:

SHUT DOWN: Shot down, minus the gun play.

SIGNAGE:

SIMPLICITY:

SIMULATION:

SIGN-OFF ON:  “Off” and “on” in the same term? Emblematic of corporate clarity.

SIZING GUIDE:

SKILLSET:

SKIN IN THE GAME:

SLIPPAGE:

SMALL BUSINESS:

SMELLING BLOOD:

SMOKE-AND-MIRRORS:

SMOKING BREAK:

SNAFU:

SNEEZE-GUARD (panel between socially distanced work stations):

SOCIAL DISTANCING:

(fake) SOCIAL SMILE: Happiness deprived of oxygen.

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY:

SOLUTION:

SOFT SELL: What proceeds the hard sell.

SOUP TO NUTS:

SPAM:

SPEED:

SPIKE:

SPILLAGE:

SPONSOR:

(the use of a) SPORTS ANALOGY: The moment in a leader’s speech when he (or she) strikes out.

SPREADSHEET:

(back to) SQUARE ONE: In playing the most tedious boardgame ever invented.

(the) SQUEAKY WHEEL:

STAFF:

STAGGERED WORKFORCE (in the age of COVID-19):

START-UP COMPANY:

STATE-OF-THE-ART:

STEP DOWN:  Senior management figures never resign; they “step down” as if descending from the deck of a yacht.

STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE:

STOCK BUYBACKS:

STONE-FACED:

STORYBOARDS:

STORY LINE:

STORY POINT:

STRAIGHT TO VOICEMAIL:

STRATEGY:

STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT:

SUBMISSION:

SUCCESS: Successfully moving the goalposts by which success is defined.

SUGGESTION BOX:

SULLENNESS:

SUMMER INTERN:

SUMMIT MEETING:

SUPER SPREADER:

SUPPLY-AND-DEMAND:

SUPPLY CHAIN:

SUPPORT FUNCTION:

SURPRISE: Almost always unwelcome, as it interrupts the slumber that is corporate life.

SURVIVOR:

SUSTAINABILITY:

SWALLOW-THE-BAIT:

SWEET SPOT:

(stay in your) SWIMLANE: See ORGANIZATION CHART.

SYNERGY: Two paupers putting on a king’s robes.

T

TABLE STAKES:

TAGLINE: A marketing campaign slogan with the life span of a gnat.

TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL:

TAKING CREDIT:

TALENT: The assumption that work life is like Hollywood, when it’s really more like vaudeville.

TALENT SCOUTING:

TEAM SPIRIT:

TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER:

TEE IT UP:

TELECOMMUTE: Dialing in for a call you haven’t prepared for, safe in the knowledge that nothing much will happen.

TELEHEALTH:

TEMPLATE:

TEMPS: The itinerant farmhands of office life.

TERROR:

THIS IS WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD:

TIGER TEAM:

TIMELY ACTION: The acknowledgment that you’re fighting a rearguard action.

TIME MANAGEMENT:

THIS MAILBOX IS FULL: The Potemkin Village version of being productively busy.

THOUGHT LEADER: (oxymoron) One who possesses neither any original thoughts nor a propensity to lead. 

360-DEGREE THINKING: Blind man’s bluff in real time.

TIME IS MONEY:

TIME-TO-MARKET:

TO BE HONEST:

TO-GO KITS:

TONE-DEAF: What the middle initial “T” stands for in every manager’s name.

TOO BIG TO FAIL:

TOXICITY:

TOXIC WORK ENVIRONMENT:

TRADE ASSOCIATIONS:

TRADE SECRETS:

TRAINEE:

TRAINING: The pretense that anybody other than your boss is the one who can establish the procedures you will be rewarded for following.

TRANSFORM:

TRANSPARENCY:

TRASH TALK:

TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT:

TREND ANALYSIS:

TRENDSPOTTING:

TURNKEY:

24/7: The terms of existence inmates can attest to as well.

 

U

ULTIMATUM: A face-to-face meeting drawing to a close.

UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME:

URGENT:

 

V

VACATION (OR HOLIDAY): A place where you go with your loved ones to reduce your daily workload to only three or four hours each day.

VENDORS:

VENGEANCE:

VENTING:

VENTURE CAPITALIST:

VERBATIMS: The capturing of what exactly was said by research study participants, a process that brings to mind Frank Zappa’s remark that rock journalism involves “people who can’t write, writing about people who can’t sing for people who can’t read.”

VETERAN:

VIDEO CONFERENCING:

VIDEO INTERVIEWING:

VIGILANCE:

(going) VIRAL: What our next video will surely accomplish. 2) Similar to a virus.

VIRTUAL CONFERENCE:

VIRTUAL HANDSHAKE:

VIRTUAL HAPPY HOUR:

VIRTUAL MEETING:

VISIBILITY:

VISION: That which is never seen, seldom heard from, and rarely achieved.

VOLUNTEER:

VULNERABILITY:

 

W

WAITING-IN-LINE:

WALKING DEAD:

(can) WALK-TO-NEARBY-STORES: A company advertising for workers when it has no parking on-site and is pretending that you’ll have time for lunch breaks.

WARRANTY:

WATER-COOLER CONVERSATIONS:

WE: You.

WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH BOOTS ON THE GROUND:

WEEKEND EMAIL THREADS:

“WE’LL HANDLE IT IN THE MOST HUMANE WAS POSSIBLE”:

WE’LL LOOP YOU IN WHEN WE NEED TO:  You’re utterly expendable.

WE NEED TO WRAP OUR HEADS AROUND THIS:

WFH (WORKING FROM HOME):

“WHATEVER YOU THINK IS FAIR”:

WHAT’S-IN-IT-FOR-ME (WIFM): 

WHAT’S OUR GO-TO-MARKET STRATEGY:

WHEELHOUSE:

WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE:

WHEN-YOU-HAVE-SOME-TIME: You had better swing around to my office soon.

WHISTLE-BLOWER:

WHITEBOARD:

WHITE-COLLAR CRIME:

WHITE PAPER: An antonym for ACTIONABLE.

WHITE SPACE:

“WHO’S BUDGET IS THIS COMING OUT OF”: Not going to happen.

“WHO’S HANDLING THIS”:

WIN-WIN SITUATION:

WISEASS:

WITH ALL DUE RESPECT:

WORKAHOLIC:

WORD-OF-MOUTH (advertising):

WORDSMITH IT: 

WORKDAY: An eight-hour stretch of time lasting approximately eleven hours in all.

WORK ETHIC:

WORK EXPERIENCE:

WORKING-THROUGH-THE-CHANNELS:

WORK KITCHEN (or pantry):

WORK / LIFE BALANCE:

WORKING LATE IN THE OFFICE:

WORKLOAD:

WORKMAN’S COMP:

WORKSHIFT:

WORKSHOPS:

WORK SMARTER:

WORK STATION:

WORK STOPPAGE:

WORLD CLASS: Excluding the G20, of course.

WORLDWIDE:

WOW:

 

X

XENOPHOBIA: 1) What you overcome – for COST-CUTTING reasons only, of course – in opening a CALL CENTER overseas. 2)  The single most valid reason for why this letter remains in the alphabet.

 

Y

“YOU’RE NEXT ON MY LIST”: Of things to ignore.

 

Z

ZOOMBOMBING: Hijacking a zoom video call because it’s harder to fly a plane.

ZOOMGHOSTER: Yes, you’re on the call but not really or could be . . . paying attention, if only there was a valid reason for doing so.

ZUMPING: Getting fired or laid off via a zoom call because the company is being as humane as it can possibly be. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
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Dan Hill

©2020