Office Acculturation 101: Talking The Talk

Think outside the box... it's where the best i...
Think outside the box… it’s where the best ideas live. (Photo credit: ArtJonak)

As an anthropologist working in a corporate setting and dealing with the different operating cultures of my diverse roster of client teams,  its fun to practice the ethnographic art and science of participant observation in studying “professional” culture.  It’s useful in helping to understand how to work effectively within my surroundings, but it’s also fun to “get real” with an anthropological perspective on the rules of engagement.

One of the most important parts of corporate acculturation is to learn the language.

Here are a few phrases it’s good to know  (and rough translations) to help you navigate the language of the cubicle jungle:

“Lets take this off line”:  this is roughly translated to “i don’t want to talk to you about this in front of other people”, or “I don’t have anything meaningful to contribute to this conversation”.  Often used when people are unprepared in a meeting setting or think your idea stinks.

“Think outside the box”:  a term related to the need for fresh thinking that generally means “come up with an idea that hasn’t been thought of a zillion times already” or “come up with an idea that doesn’t suck, as per usual”.

“Ideation” – group think to help you “think outside the box”.  Usually includes snacks and toys and post-it notes and requires you to let your email pile up for a day while you hang out with a team of people who’s creativity is likely severely limited and who are preoccupied with the email piling up in their inbox, or their Words With Friends game.

Lets put a pin in it”:  Similar to “lets take this off line”, but typically means your idea is irrelevant or stinks and “we will get to that when we have nothing better to do”.

“Deck”:  This is a term for a PowerPoint presentation.  Typically the result of lots of work and time and thought and is usually used as a coaster or waste-basket filler.

“Can you put that in a one-pager?”: This roughly translates to “I am not going to read that deck because flipping pages is below my pay grade” or “The executives who need this information all have MBAs so they don’t know how to analyze things…just spell it out with a few words and pictures”.

“Let me research that and get back to you”: “i don’t know the answer to your question”

“Can you tell me more about that?”:  a common term in meetings and focus groups.  It means “i wasn’t listening when you were just speaking, so can you repeat yourself?”

“COB”:  acronym for “Close of Business”.  Similar to “EOD”, which means “End of Day”.  These and other abbreviations are used in emails because typing out three words is very strenuous and people who need things by the end of the day are very very busy.  Typically, what you send or do by COB will not be looked at until the next morning anyway. But hoop jumping is a part of the corporate culture.  See previous blog on “Firedrills”  http://wp.me/p2tbZQ-x

“WIP”: another in the Acronym series that means “Work in Progress”.  Typical usage, “I can share the WIP report with you” or “I’m getting that done but it’s a WIP at the moment”.  This means “what I have is probably crap” or “I’ve been busy playing Words With Friends and haven’t gotten to it yet”

This is a starter-list for the beginner but I welcome any seasoned participant-observers to contribute your linguistic analysis to this cultural conversation / “WIP” blog…..

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4 thoughts on “Office Acculturation 101: Talking The Talk

  1. The ‘O”s on your OXO box form a pattern that is just like my wife’s nose. Having a nose is important in business. Blessed are those who nose their way in. Who nose whose nose><

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