Culture   //   July 20, 2023

‘Circling back’: Here’s a translation of corporate workplace jargon

Corporate speak is a language in and of itself and half of it requires reading between the lines. 

It can also be passive-aggressively “polite” in a way that masks the speaker’s true feelings. Workplace frustrations and pressures often spill over into how we communicate with people, whether it’s your boss, clients or other coworkers. As a result, people have gotten adept at trying to sugar coat how we really feel when speaking to each other.

We compiled a list of the most frequently used work phrases and translated them to what people actually mean, and wish they could really say:

“Circling back”: I need an answer here and I’m annoyed I need to ask again.

“I don’t have the bandwidth”: I won’t take on this additional work without additional compensation. 

“We have decided to pivot”: We made a mistake. 

“Can I pick your brain?”: I’m fresh out of ideas. 

“Respectfully” or “With all due respect”: You’re not going to like what I’m about to say.

“Per my last email”: Are you even listening to me?

“Apologies for the delay in getting back to you”: I completely forgot about you.

“Gentle reminder” or “Just a friendly reminder”: I need this now.

“I’m going to push back on this one”: I disagree with that idea completely.

“I’ll let you two take it from here”: Stop cc’ing me and clogging my inbox.

“Floating this back up your inbox”: Stop ignoring me.

“Let’s table that for now”: Worst idea ever.

“For future reference”: Don’t mess up again.

“I’ll run it up the flagpole”: I’m killing this idea. 

“We need you to hit the ground running”: You’re on your own pal.

“We’re hot desking!”: We don’t have enough desks, but you’re still expected to show up.

“To be perfectly frank”: I’m going to be rude and disrespectful now.  

“Thinking outside the box”: Please be less dull.

“Take it offline”: Let’s not air our dirty laundry in front of everyone.

“Interesting approach:” WTF are you doing?

“cc’ing [insert name of higher up] for visibility”: Your boss needs to see how you’re acting.

“Thank you in advance for your help”: You’re expected to do this task and you don’t have a say.

“FYI:” You should’ve already been aware of this information.

“Let’s assume positive intent”: I really don’t want to deal with the deeper issue here and unpack this.

“Let’s make sure we’re on the same page”: This is what’s happening, and that’s the final consensus.