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.
EAT YOUR OWN DOG FOOD:
ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM:
EMERGING MARKET: An excellent opportunity to lose money without recourse.
EMOJIS: The feelings you would be having at work if they were allowed.
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.
EVOLVING: We have no idea where we’ve been, nor where we’re going.
(going the) EXTRA MILE:
(the) FACT OF THE MATTER IS:
FALL THROUGH THE CRACKS:
FEEDBACK: Electrocution by other means.
FOLLOW-THE-RULES: Even if they change hourly.
GETTING SOME PUSHBACK: Gail-force winds.
GO BACK AND SHARPEN YOUR PENCILS:
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.
HELPFUL LINKS: A ten-foot rope thrown to somebody drowning 20 feet off-shore.
“HOPE YOU’RE WELL-RESTED FROM YOUR VACATION: Hell awaits.
“I’LL GET BACK TO YOU”:
IMPULSIVE: A boss who calls him or herself pro-active.
“I’M SWAMPED”: Or might in fact be the swamp.
INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION: A group that watches episodes of The Sopranos while taking notes.
IN LIGHT OF THE FACT (that . . .):
INSTANT GRATIFICATION: What’s the next upgrade from here?
INTEREST: Interest that compounds daily happens to savings accounts, but plays no part in office life.
IT IS WHAT IT IS:
JEALOUSY: Not yet time for a little BACKSTABBING.
JUST-IN-TIME INVENTORY: A method to avoid paying vendors.
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.
LANDING A PROMOTION:
(being given plenty of) LATITUDE:
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.
LOBBYING: The sales department on steroids, with the dosage administered by the company’s lawyers.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION:
MAKE HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES:
MANAGEMENT FAD: Virus introduced by a MANAGEMENT GURU.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: See BELLY CRAWL.
MEMORABLE: From the Latin, rigor mortis.
NARCISSISM: From Facebook onward, the underlying basis of social media companies’ value proposition.
NEPOTISM: Isn’t my baby cute?
NEW MANAGEMENT SYSTEM:
ON SALE: Today. Tomorrow. Forever.
PARALYSIS-BY-ANALYSIS: The business equivalent of having a colonoscopy.
PENSION: See MODEL-T.
PER MY LAST EMAIL: You’re not paying attention, are you?
(my) PLATE’s FULL:
PLEASE LEAVE A MESSAGE:
PLUG AND PLAY:
POSTPONING: A wise move.
PPE (Personal Protection Equipment):
PRICE GOUGING: The relishing of a term by colleagues that lets you know you’ve unwittingly joined the Mafia.
PRO-ACTIVE: Charging into battle on a sawhorse.
PROFITS: What makes a GOLDEN PARACHUTE possible.
PUBLIC RELATIONS CRISIS:
PUI (person under investigation for possibly having contracted COVID-19):
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE: What test pilots do, while at your company every new idea has been grounded for years.
PUTTING IT UNDER LOCK AND KEY:
QUARTERLY EARNINGS: The cliff’s notes version of the corporate Bible.
RE-ALLOCATING: Half-way to acknowledging a mistake has been made.
RE-ENTRY (going back to the office in the era of COVID-19):
(let’s not) REINVENT THE WHEEL:
RELEVANCY: If only.
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.
REMOTE: A way of describing your motivation level during a virtual meeting.
RESILIENCE: The latest way of saying “S*** happens.”
RETIREMENT BUYOUT PACKAGE:
REVENUE PROJECTION: A number you give while trying not to laugh out loud.
REVIEW BOMBING: Consumers posing as terrorists, or maybe it’s the other way around.
RIGHT-SIZING: Tacitly admitting you recklessly expanded the company too quickly.
ROBUST: Packs a punch, like a bottle of champagne opened and left for days.
(this isn’t) ROCKET SCIENCE:
RTW: (return to work scenarios in the age of COVID-19):
RUN IT BY LEGAL: The end of your project.
SALES BOOTH: An objection of derision or pity depending on the conference attendee’s perspective.
SALES RECEIPT: The life raft the buyer clings to while dog-paddling toward the Customer Service counter.
SCREENING MY CALLS:
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.
SEO (search engine optimization):
SERVICE-WITH-A-SMILE: Emotional labor that leaves you exhausted but no richer.
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT:
SHAKE-ON-IT: In the age of COVID-19, an extreme sport.
SHUT DOWN: Shot down, minus the gun play.
SIGN-OFF ON: “Off” and “on” in the same term? Emblematic of corporate clarity.
SKIN IN THE GAME:
SNEEZE-GUARD (panel between socially distanced work stations):
(fake) SOCIAL SMILE: Happiness deprived of oxygen.
SOFT SELL: What proceeds the hard sell.
SOUP TO NUTS:
(the use of a) SPORTS ANALOGY: The moment in a leader’s speech when he (or she) strikes out.
(back to) SQUARE ONE: In playing the most tedious boardgame ever invented.
(the) SQUEAKY WHEEL:
STAGGERED WORKFORCE (in the age of COVID-19):
STEP DOWN: Senior management figures never resign; they “step down” as if descending from the deck of a yacht.
STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE:
STRAIGHT TO VOICEMAIL:
STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT:
SUCCESS: Successfully moving the goalposts by which success is defined.
SURPRISE: Almost always unwelcome, as it interrupts the slumber that is corporate life.
(stay in your) SWIMLANE: See ORGANIZATION CHART.
SYNERGY: Two paupers putting on a king’s robes.
TAGLINE: A marketing campaign slogan with the life span of a gnat.
TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL:
TALENT: The assumption that work life is like Hollywood, when it’s really more like vaudeville.
TEE IT UP:
TELECOMMUTE: Dialing in for a call you haven’t prepared for, safe in the knowledge that nothing much will happen.
TEMPS: The itinerant farmhands of office life.
THIS IS WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD:
TIMELY ACTION: The acknowledgment that you’re fighting a rearguard action.
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:
TO BE HONEST:
TONE-DEAF: What the middle initial “T” stands for in every manager’s name.
TOO BIG TO FAIL:
TOXIC WORK ENVIRONMENT:
TRAINING: The pretense that anybody other than your boss is the one who can establish the procedures you will be rewarded for following.
24/7: The terms of existence inmates can attest to as well.
ULTIMATUM: A face-to-face meeting drawing to a close.
UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME:
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.
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.”
(going) VIRAL: What our next video will surely accomplish. 2) Similar to a virus.
VIRTUAL HAPPY HOUR:
VISION: That which is never seen, seldom heard from, and rarely achieved.
(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.
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 OUR GO-TO-MARKET STRATEGY:
WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE:
WHEN-YOU-HAVE-SOME-TIME: You had better swing around to my office soon.
WHITE PAPER: An antonym for ACTIONABLE.
“WHO’S BUDGET IS THIS COMING OUT OF”: Not going to happen.
“WHO’S HANDLING THIS”:
WITH ALL DUE RESPECT:
WORKDAY: An eight-hour stretch of time lasting approximately eleven hours in all.
WORK KITCHEN (or pantry):
WORK / LIFE BALANCE:
WORKING LATE IN THE OFFICE:
WORLD CLASS: Excluding the G20, of course.
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.
“YOU’RE NEXT ON MY LIST”: Of things to ignore.
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.