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(1).  The awkward discussion you have after a pitch with a prospect to figure out why you didn’t win the business (read: why you suck) so you can “do better next time”.


(2).  The meeting that happens after a big project is completed, where everyone gathers round to discuss who will be the scapegoat for everything that went wrong.


“Listen guys, doing a post-mortem is a solid way to figure out what we did right and what we did wrong.  I mean, Jerry dropping the F-bomb a few times didn’t help, and Lisa, breaking down crying in the middle of the meeting when your GoToMyPC froze probably wasn’t great either.  You know what, on second thought, maybe we don’t need to do this…..Jerry and Lisa, can you come to my office for a minute?”


Pound the Table

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(1).  To argue with (or complain to) management about something you feel passionate about (i.e. your comp).


“Look, Jerry … Pete’s just not going to sign off on a ten percent commission for this one.  You can pound the table all you want, but it’s not going to happen.”


Pow Wow

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(1).  A private staff meeting or other euphemism for a group of employees complaining about their co-workers and/or clients in a conference room or office.


(2).  A meeting or brainstorming session to come up with ideas and strategies for a particular client…who may or may not be Native Americans.


“We all need to get into a room and have a pow wow.  Who’s bringing the cigars?”


Powers That Be

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(1).  You know who these guys are.  You also know you’re never going to be one of them.  So there.


“Well, we tried to get our proposal approved today.  Unfortunately, the powers that be think it’ll be a much better use of firm resources to hold another ‘top producer’ offsite in Maui.  We’re never going to get that new coffee maker now!”


Pride of Authorship

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(1).  Resentment of co-workers for edits they have made to something you wrote.


“No, please.  Make changes.  No pride of authorship here.  I just worked on it for three months, no big deal.  Looking forward to your thoughts.”



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(1).  Something no one ever has time to be.


“You know, team, we’ve really got to be more proactive with our clients.  Anticipate their needs.  Call them before they call us.  Oh, who am I kidding…get back to filling out that spreadsheet I sent you!”


Pronged Approach

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(1).  A way to attack an issue from multiple fronts, usually suggested by people who can’t decide what to do and try to just throw everything at the problem in hopes that one of their ideas will work.


“Okay, team…we are going to use a three-pronged approach to resolve our recent data security problem.  Step 1: Everyone now needs a password to log in to the system.  Step 2: Jeff in IT should not have a password.  Step 3: Fire Jeff in IT.”


Props to Carlos B. for the submission.



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(1).  A software application, program or service offering that is unique to a company (and usually subject to patents or copyrights), often strikingly similar to a dozen other software applications, programs or service offerings by the company’s competitors (and probably designed using pirated software provided by disgruntled ex-employees).


“Alright everyone, we have finally rolled out our proprietary dashboard.  It took two years, countless hours and thousands of dollars, but I think we are finally going to be able to pull in Google Analytics!  What?  Yes, that’s pretty much all it does.  No, I don’t think it makes more sense to just log in to Google Analytics.  This thing has our logo on it!”



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(1).  Word incorrectly used to describe making a decision when the subject matter situation changes, affecting the original plan.  Should instead referred to as ‘calling an audible.’


“If that doesn’t work out, we’ll have to punt.”  (Facepalm)


Props to Cosgrove for the submission.


Push Back

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(1).  n.  A repeated attempt to obtain a different answer or result, often used while feigning guilt, and even more often resulting in something being escalated to management.


(2).  v.  To annoyingly attempt to obtain a different answer or result, often (depending on how pushy you are) resulting in some sort of successful outcome.


“Sorry for the push back, Andy, but I really think we should be able to get this done for twenty bips.  I’ll take this all the way up the chain of command, if I have to.”


Push It Out

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(1).  To dump a ton of work on someone else’s lap.


“I would love to go out for drinks tonight, but I have a ton of work to get done.  Let me see if I can push it out on the new associate and I’ll call you back.”


Put on the Back Burner

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(1).  To refuse to allocate resources to a project or expenditure, often used by management to avoid telling their employees that the company is never, ever going to spring for new computers.


“I think color monitors are a great idea, Ken.  Unfortunately, we’re going to have to put that on the back burner for now.  We really need to focus on new company cars for the partners.”


Putting Out Fires

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(1).  An expression used to imply that you have been dealing with crises all day, in an attempt to (1) passive-aggressively complain about your job, (2) make yourself seem more important than you actually are, or (3) avoid taking on more work.


“Man, the bigger clients I almost exclusively work on are so demanding!  I’ve been putting out fires all afternoon.  I wish I worked on smaller, less meaningful clients like you, Jaime.  My life would be so much easier!”



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(1).  The guy who takes the client out to lunch occasionally, but does no real work on the account.


“So, Steve will still be the quarterback of your relationship, but you should feel free to reach out to any of us if you have any specific questions relating to the management of your accounts.  He likely will be out of the office when you call.”


Radio Silence

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(1).  When you haven’t heard back from a prospect in a really long time despite several follow-ups (hint: they did not hire you).


“Boy, ever since our initial meeting, it’s been radio silence from those guys.  Maybe I should send them a fruit basket or something.  I don’t know…”



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(1).  A term used to describe someone who develops business for themselves or their company.  They are a key person who keeps new business coming in the door.


“Ross is a rainmaker!  The guy is like Dustin Hoffman in the boardroom!”


Props to Mark R. for the submission.



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(1).  When your company moves everyone’s desks around for no apparent reason.  Result: high cost, low anything else.


“Okay, team.  Everyone needs to get ready for the re-stack this weekend.  So, before you go home today, you’re going to need to pack up all your stuff and carry it to your new desks on the 15th floor.  The company will take care of everything else.”


Reach Out

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(1). To contact someone, meant to imply a personal or intimate relationship that usually does not exist.


(2). Adds a cheesy and phony new age element to any form of communication, whether E-mail or talk.


“I reached out to Bob this morning to let him know he was termed.”


Props to John D. for the submission!



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(1).  When your company decides to change the job descriptions of employees they want out, in hopes that they will just up and quit, thereby avoiding having to pay severance.


“So, Jim, with the current realignment going on, we thought this would be a good opportunity to redefine your role to something more suitable to your skillset.  So, we’re thinking mailroom.  Thoughts?”


Props to Denise M. for the submission.


Rearrange the Deck Chairs on the Titanic

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(1).  To futilely attempt to stop the inevitable collapse of a business, project or career.


“Mike, all of these personnel changes you’re making is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  No one buys our stuff anymore!  I mean, who the hell needs a beeper in 2012!”



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(1).  The act of indiscriminately moving some of your employees to another location to save a few shekels on rent.


“So, we just repotted all of our IRA call center guys to our new high value site in Topeka.  It’s going to save us a ton!”



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(1).  A decision made solely based on cost.  So … every decision.


“Ken, we’ve decided to go with another provider this year.  It’s not a reflection on you or your work at all.  It’s basically a resource-driven decision coming down from management.  You’re just charging too much for that coffee, Ken.”


Responsibility Grid

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(1).  A project manager’s list of stuff he’s delegating and the poor saps he’s delegating it to.  Somehow, he doesn’t ever seem to do anything … ?


“Okay, guys … so, I worked up a responsibility grid (thanks, Dave, for putting that together!) … Cheryl, you’ll be in charge of T & Es … Henry, you take committee meeting minutes … Frank, you’ll be dealing with the scanning remediation … and, Jim, you’ve got coffee orders.  Thanks, everyone!”


Right the Ship

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(1).  A nautical term used by new managers or consultants when describing their plan for turning around a struggling business unit (or, in other words, layoffs).


“Team, Q3 results come out tomorrow and I don’t have to tell you all it’s not going to be pretty.  We need to right the ship or else all of us are going to be looking for new jobs.  Speaking of which…Jim, can I see you in my office after we wrap up here?”



Real Life Lingo


I am not sure why so many of these terms are derived from the sea.  Perhaps it’s because every manager believes they are the captain of some sort of seafaring vessel with a copy machine on deck.  Either way, a few years ago I worked at an upstart .com, and my boss loved to say we are going to right the ship every time things weren’t going too well.  Which pretty much was the entire year I worked there, so I heard that phrase a lot.


My advice to anyone would be two-fold, one, when you’re trying to make your band and musical dreams work, don’t just take the first job that says ok to hiring you, they may go out of business and never pay you.  And two, if your boss is constantly saying that you are going to right the ship in the next quarter, it’s probably time to start looking for a new job.


Fair seas matey!



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(1). Used at the end of every sentence by someone trying to state the obvious but who really is just painfully insecure.  Although used by articulate speakers as an infrequent rhetorical tool, the user here actually expects your agreement.  Every.  Single.  Time.


“The end goal here is to improve our net promoter score, right?  So we should survey customers in real time, right?  And that’s going to require resources, right?  So, clearly we should…, right?


Props to Tommy P. for the submission.


Road Map

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(1). A term that compares a project plan to an ill-conceived cross country drive.


“Alright people, let’s lay down a road map for the client so they know where the highlights and bathroom breaks are along the way.”



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(1).  A nationwide tour you convince your bosses that you and your new, super-hot assistant should take to market some new product to your regional sales teams.  Be prepared to be fired and/or divorced by the time you get home.


“Hey Ken, I think we need a roadshow to get the word out about the new whatever-it-is we’re rolling out next quarter.  Happy to spearhead the effort on this.  I think we should start in Honolulu and work our way east.”



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(1).  What everybody wants, but only Amazon seems to get.


“So riddle me this, Sam.  If we invest all of this money into frozen bananas, what’s the ROI going to be?  How will these bananas help this company become…top banana?” (womp womp)


Root and Branch Review

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(1).  A review of an entire organization from the bottom to the top.


“Mark, the boss wants us to undertake a root and branch review of the company.  He said we can take as long as we need to do it, so long as its ready to go by next month.”


Props to Michael M. for the submission.



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(1).  Some sort of account meeting.  95% of the time involves a table that isn’t round.


“So, I had a roundtable with the guys in Accounting yesterday.  It was weird … they all kept saying ‘Ni!’.”


Props to Michael for the submission.


Rusty Bucket

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(1).  A guy who cracks under pressure, usually resulting in missed deadlines, poor performance reviews and/or embarrassing nervous breakdowns in the office pantry.


“Boy, what a couple of rusty buckets!  The minute the clients started questioning our fees, Mike and Jim folded like cheap suits!”



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(1).  What you always call something you’ve been doing for years that you now suspect no one else does anymore, in an attempt to make it sound like they’re the ones who’ve got it wrong.


“Wait a minute…isn’t it still S.O.P. to keep a second set of books for all of the cash-only sales we close?”


Scrub The Funnel

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(1).  To bug, bother, and otherwise annoy customers who have already said their purchase decision is months away to see if you can squeeze a purchase order from them anyway.  Frequently used at month or quarter-end.


“Boy, Drew…you’ve been on the phone all day today.  Trying to scrub the funnel before comp day, eh?”


Props to Sean for the submission!


Secret Sauce

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(1).  Special skills, products or abilities that you try to make prospects believe your company has that no one else has, when in reality, everyone just sells the same crap.


“I mean, c’mon, it’s not like we have some secret sauce that makes us better than anybody else!  We sell toilet seats, for gods’ sakes!”


Separate The Wheat From The Chaff

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(1).  To weed out the meat of a presentation (a.k.a. the quote) from all of the marketing fluff.


“This all looks great, Don.  But I’m having a little trouble separating the wheat from the chaff here.  Can you let me know where I can find the fee? … Oh, there it is – footnote 34 in Appendix K…got it.”


Serial Entrepreneur

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(1).  An unbalanced individual who cannot stop themselves from starting multiple businesses, no matter how successful (or more likely, unsuccessful) they turn out to be.  It’s very similar to how Patrick Bateman cannot stop himself from killing people and doing sit-ups.


“I’m somewhat of a serial entrepreneur.  My new venture is an upscale restaurant in midtown.  Dorsia?  No, it’s not like Dorsia.  Nobody goes there anymore.”


Shift Gears

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(1).  A racing-inspired term for changing the subject during a meeting or conference call, usually used when the discussion has drifted into uncomfortable territory for one or more participants and they wish to bring it back to a more friendly or positive topic.


“Okay, why don’t we shift gears here and get back to the holiday promotion.  I don’t like where this ‘you guys don’t pay your bills’ conversation is going.”


Shooting Star

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(1).  Someone who was involved with a client for such a short time their absence won’t be noticed.  In other words, fire away!


“Hey Mike, what’s up?  Susan’s leaving the firm?  That’s too bad.  How do I want to tell the client?  Well … I mean … Susan was more of a shooting star in the relationship, so I’m not sure we need to say anything.”


Silent Partner

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(1). A mysterious individual, usually masked, who invests in a business but remains behind the scenes in order to protect their identity. This is usually because:


(a). They do not want to be associated with the product or service if it fails.


(b). They do not want to be bothered with the day to day operations of said business.


(c). They just want to be the “money guy” and make it rain.


(d). It is their brother-in-law’s “business” and their sister really needs the money.


(2). Batman.


“Hey Jesse, I got this new business idea and I’m gonna let you get in on the ground floor. It’s totally legit and you can be my silent partner. Ok, just close your eyes and think of this, “fireworks”. I can make them in my basement and no one else in New York sells em….it’s foolproof!


Silver Bullet

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(1).  A metaphoric ammunition that CEO’s, managers, and business owners alike believe can rectify a major issue a company is currently experiencing.


(2).  In their physical form, silver bullets are commonly used to eliminate werewolves….which are totally real.


“Ok, so we found the smoking gun and now we just need to find the silver bullet to fix it so we can all put this whole thing behind us.  I swear to God, this is the last time I listen to that janitor down on the third floor who moonlights as a psychic.”


Skeleton Crew

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(1).  A term used to describe staffing on (a) the day after Thanksgiving, (b) a Friday in August, or (c) any day on which your boss is traveling.


“Well, we’re running with a bit of a skeleton crew today, so I’m thinking you should probably call back on Monday.  Have a great weekend!”


Slow Burn

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(1).  A term used to describe something that takes a really, really, REALLY long time to show any sort of return.  Like running a website about corporate jargon.


“Well Alan, SEO is a real slow burn.  I realize that you believe everyone is looking for homemade marmalade on Google, but I don’t know if this is the right channel for you to focus on.”


Smiling And Dialing

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(1). A term used by salesmen to make their job sound more pleasant when in fact they are just cold calling.  While usually used as a vote of confidence, it actually means they are nervous about hitting their numbers, and dying a little bit on the inside.


(2). The process of salesmen disturbing you at work during lunch, instead of at home during dinner.


“I’m just smiling and dialing until one hits…please dear god let one or two hit, I knew I shouldn’t have bought that boat, I live in Ohio, why did I buy a boat?!”


Smoking Gun

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(1).  A term used to identify the cause of a major problem a company is currently experiencing.  While this metaphoric firearm and the silver bullet that can remedy the situation rarely exist, business owners seem to love the chase.  In all honesty, the problem is usually due a pile of guns that the business owner has accumulated from years and years of poor business decisions.


(2).  In internet marketing, this terms is usually associated with a business owner looking for the cause of a massive drop in organic traffic due to one of Google’s jackass algorithm updates.  Thanks Matt Cutts.


“Sean, I’m just looking for the smoking gun in this situation.  I don’t understand why linking to all of these gambling and porn sites is such a bad thing.  Lot’s of people go to them, hell, I was just on one before this meeting.  That’s a strong handshake you have by the way.”



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(1).  The place where you go out to meet with someone in person instead of emailing or texting them over that new “World Wide Web” contraption.  Smiley-face emoticon!


“Look, we’re not like other firms that’ll just send you an email once in a while.  We believe in the SneakerNet, and we’re more than happy to meet with you anytime, anywhere … so long as you do at least $5 million with us, otherwise, it’s once-in-a-while emails for you.”



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(1).  A segment of a certain market or industry.


“Since we’re looking to penetrate the ultra-high net worth space, I think we might want to stop giving out toasters to new customers.  Oh, and we should stop calling them ‘customers’.”


Speak To

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(1).  To talk about something, or give a reply.


“I’m going to speak to this bullet point.”


“I’d like to speak to your question.”


Props to J—- for the submission.



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(1).  To lead some project or effort in hopes it gets you some sliver of recognition.  It won’t.  It will help the career of the guy who assigned it to you, though.


“Team, we’re going to focus on updating our client contact information database this summer.  Fred here has graciously volunteered to spearhead the effort.  I’ll be happy to report progress to management, of course.  In the meantime, I’ll be sailing to the Virgin Islands, but should be available on BB if anyone needs me.”