The Great Big List of Business Jargon

Business has a ton of words that are jargon-filled and yet empty at the same time. Weird Al wrote a song about it. We know these words when we hear them, but what do they actually mean? I’ve collected a list of business jargon terms and phrases from numerous people around the internet and attempted to give definitions to them.

Have your own words and rough definitions to them? Leave them in the comments. I may add them to the list (either directly or with modified definitions).

Thank you to the numerous people who contributed ideas including (in no particular order) Mike, Brandon, Stephanie, Katie, Tim, Eve, Jason, Brian, Patrick, Mike, Steven, Liz, Chris, J.P., and the CEO of Uber.

Actualize Your Potential – The action of developing onto the career path that management desires for you.

Bandwidth – Something that your manager will ask you if you have enough of before they attempt to give you extra responsibilities. This is usually followed by the addition of new work to the employee in question’s workload regardless of their answer.

Big Block/Big Rock – A giant obstacle in the way of progress. Big rocks are identified by leaders with the intent of the rock being moved or solved by many people or processes, though this rarely happens in practice.

Bringing X to the Table – A fancy way of qualifying someone’s skill set when they’re not in the room with you. In reality, you can only say someone brings X trait to the table when they’re not physically at the same table as you. Not to be confused with who is, in fact, going to give it to ya.

Business Casual – Hahahahahahahahahahahhahahahaha. Hahahahaha. Ha. No one actually know what this means.

Calibration – The act of getting everyone on the same page on a topic for just long enough that everyone stops realizing that said topic is the source of a problem.

Collaborative – Any project where two or more individuals or teams are tasked with working together by their managers or directors.

Consulting – Freelancing, only with better pay guarantees and less responsibility.

Cost Marginalization – How pompous people and/or mathematicians refer to opportunity cost changes.

Creating Buy In – The act of getting someone to care enough about your job or project that they won’t act as an impediment to you getting your job done.

Cryptokitty – Keyboard cat for hackers.

Crystallize – Any idea that is clear in the head of the person explaining it, but murky in everyone else’s minds.

Culture – Your company has a good one if you’re happy. Your company has a bad one if you’re angry.

Dedication – An employee’s willingness to do exactly what they’re asked or told to do for long enough that they can be awarded with a certificate or a plaque.

Deep Empathy – Like regular empathy, only with more business jargon. South Park did a picture perfect explanation of deep empathy.

Design Ninja – Someone who can convince shareholders, the public, or a graphics designer that Comic Sans is superior to all other sans serif fonts. Which it is1Save for Tahoma, of course., though good luck cleaning up the brains of a visual designer when their head explodes from telling them that.

Disconnect – A term used when one person thinks another person or department has a major problem, but is trying their hardest to be polite about the severity of that issue. See also: Pain Point.

Dynamic Workforce – What a manager’s workforce believes themselves to be when they can still meet their quotas despite upper management constantly changing goals. See also: Moving the Goalposts.

Experiential Training – Another way of saying hands-on training. A learning model that is rarely effective even with the most engaged learners, and a potentially catastrophic one with a disengaged learner. See also: Shadowing.

Friday Eve – Whatever day is the next to last day of your work week.

Get My/Your Head Around It – A diplomatic way of telling someone you don’t understand what they’re trying to say without offending them.

Hitting The Wall – A polite way of telling someone that you/they/their project is running out of steam.

Incentivize – The action of giving prizes as a method to increase productivity, sales, or other positive behavior you wish for your employees to exhibit. Pavlov’s dog was a nard dog.

Intentionalize – A word used to explain that you meant to take an action and you’re trying to sound smarter than someone in the process.

Integration – When used in the context of software, this is the interactivity between two or more systems. When used in the context of mergers and acquisitions, this is the action of the acquiring company picking and choosing what they want to keep of the acquired company, usually as dictated by the board of directors.

It Doesn’t Pop – Phrase used any time a presentation, design, or marketing material doesn’t have the exact type of pizzazz that a major stakeholder who has zero design experience wants. This is nearly always remedied by RANDOM Capitalization of MEANINGLESS words and Letters, extraneous use of font style changes, or by placing said presentation over and endless loop of Dave Matthews music2AKA the holy trinity of ways to get me to make fun of your presentation..

Millennials – A generation that is killing everything according to people who don’t understand how either economics or generations work.

Move the Dial – Progress on a project as viewed from a high level. Usually utilized by someone that does not have a direct connection with said project.

Networking – The act of making business connections without developing any actual friendships. These connections are most commonly used only when it is of a professional benefit, such as when searching for a job or selling.

Optics – The phenomenon wherein something you’ve done always looks far worse to you than it does to other people. Even when you know that, you still can’t help but feel like you made a mistake. Like that one time where you were cleaning out a desk that you’re moving to and you instant messaged the former office owner asking if he wanted a stash of candy wrappers you found in the desk, thinking that he had managed to get personalized peanut butter cups because you didn’t realize that Justin’s is a candy company. SHUT UP BRAIN! WHY ARE YOU REMINDING ME OF THIS AT TWO IN THE MORNING ON A TUESDAY! I JUST WANT TO SLEEP!

Overqualified – What you totally are when you don’t get a job you feel you should have.

Ownership – The act of taking responsibility to solve a problem, even when you weren’t the one to cause that problem. A trait that’s strong in customer service and information technology professionals, but weak in other fields.

Partner (v.) – To work with someone. More specifically, the person saying “I’m happy to partner with you” or some variation of the phrase is assuming that the other party will do the bulk of the work, but that both parties will receive equal credit.

Pop Up – Any computer notification, instant message, new internet window that opens when you click a link, or other computer function that does not perform as expected. Commonly used by non-IT professionals.

Self-Starter – An employee who has the ability to both do work and slack off at will without their direct manager noticing the difference.

Shareholders – A nebulous concept that leadership of public companies use to place blame on when a decision negatively impacts employees.

Sign-off – The natural conclusion of buy-in, wherein you’ve gotten enough people to care about your project that you either get funding, get manpower, or get left alone long enough to actually complete that project.

Streamline – In the context of a project or dataset, this term roughly means to make more efficient. In the context of employees, this loosely means to lay people off in an effort to increase profits to please shareholders.

Subby/Subbie – Shorthand for subcontractor. Can be a term of endearment or one of derision, depending on the quality of the work provided by said subcontractor.

Synergy – Something that your meetings have if the highest ranking person in the meeting thinks that meeting is going well. See also: Momentum, It.

The D – According to the CEO of Uber, this is apparently the power to make decisions in meetings. According to literally everyone else, this is a thing you say you need when the marketing team misspells ‘extraordinary’ in your building’s faux-motivational graphics.

Thinking Outside the Box – To propose an idea that is just different enough to everyone else’s but similar enough to your boss’s that it gets selected as a plan.

Up and to the Right – The direction the profits chart moves for a profitable business. Generally, this is a good thing. In some cases, your company’s senior leadership may profess a desire to have sexual intercourse with such charts. It’s just as creepy as it sounds.