Workplace Wednesday: Office-Speak

Posted by Eric Smith

In honor of Workplace Conflict Awareness Month, we’re posting excerpts from Caroline Tiger’s How To Behave: A Guide to Modern Manners. In How To Behave, Caroline dedicates an entire chapter to office etiquette. It’s my hope that these bits of wisdom, posted every Wednesday this month, will help you to alleviate the conflict in your workplace.

So far we’ve touched on How To Deal with the Overripe Office Refridgerator, Photocopier Etiquette, and Cubicle Courtesy. Today’s the last Wednesday of the month, so this is the last Workplace Wednesday post. Hopefully Caroline’s guidelines helped you avoid conflict in the office. Today’s bit of wisdom has to do with where a lot of conflict begins… talking. Read on to learn about Office Speak.


From How To Behave by Caroline Tiger

Despite the rise of e-mail, face-to-face interaction—whether during meetings or one-on-one—is still the standard mode of communication at most companies. But verbal interactions can become frustrating when colleagues are purposefully vague or patronizing, or when they latch on to buzzwords to show that they’re “team players” and to signal how ingrained they are in the culture. (These are the employees who will compare everything to something sports related.)

When communicating or presenting at meetings or other work venues, keep these rules in mind:

1. Use terms that everyone can easily comprehend. If you’re presenting a report on a little-known aspect of the business at a meeting, for instance, begin with a brief explanation in straightforward layperson’s terms.

2. Unless you work for a sports network, refrain from using baseball, basketball, and any other sports analogies.

3. Keep annoying coinages out of your speech: no talk of “synergy,” “growing” the company, or “marrying” concepts.

4. Avoid euphemisms. If it’s been a bad year, say so. Don’t use “reorganization” when you mean staff cuts; don’t use “thinking outside the box” when you mean creativity.

5. Refrain from using “street” language to indicate how with it you are.

Eric Smith


ERIC SMITH is the cofounder of Geekadelphia, a popular blog covering all-that-is-geek in the City of Brotherly Love, as well as the Philadelphia Geek Awards, an annual awards show held at the Academy of Natural Sciences. He’s written for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Weekly, and