A Corporate Jargon Glossary So You Can Tell Lisa From Accounting To Fuck Off, Professionally

At what point in the herstory did we start speaking like aliens in the workplace? Somebody had to be the first person to say “run it up the flagpole,” and I guess we all just played along? 

My theory is that since most of our jobs are so miserable, we use jargon as a means to dissociate. We would never say “core competencies” in real life, so if the words escape our mouth, this must not be our true reality! Everything’s fine!!! 

To help you process your existential corporate dread, here’s a glossary of our 25 favorite bullshit jargon words that you can use while you girlboss your way through Q4. 

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Absolutely (adverb) 

The go-to answer to any request from a client or manager, while you internally cringe at the stupidity of their ideas. 

Can we get 5,000 kittens to fall from the sky during our launch moment for our new skin-softening SPF lotion? 


Action Item (noun)

An action item is a dressed up way of saying “task.” It was created by people who failed the LSAT as a way of convincing themselves that their backup career as a communications strategist is special and important. 

Shelly, did you remember to pass around Deb’s birthday card?

Yes, it’s on my action items for today, along with flirting with Sean from accounting. 

Aligned (noun)

This is the only acceptable way to denote agreement, like we’re all living in our own separate universes that need to align in order restore peace to the multiverse. You might feel tempted to say, “I’m down with that,” or “cool with me!” but you must resist the urge, or all of your colleagues will slowly turn to look at you with a mixture of fear and contempt, like a gaggle of robot Stepford Wives. 

So, should we fire Mark? That guy sucks ass. 

I’m aligned.  

Bandwidth (noun) 

Your capacity to take on more deliverables, AKA a corporate dick measuring contest for hardos. 

Does anyone have bandwidth to help with the Gelinsky case? 

Ugh, I’ve been clocking in 80 hour weeks, I have zero bandwidth. 

Really? ‘Cause I slept at the office last night and showered in the sink. I have negative infinity bandwidth. 


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Core Values (noun) 

Pretty words that your company pretends to believe in, in case the CFO’s private jet emissions are ever leaked to the press.

How do you embody the firm’s core values of empathy, integrity, and inclusion? 

By refraining from smashing my computer screen with a sledgehammer every time one of you idiots asks me a highly Googleable question. 

Deep Dive (noun) 

Conducting basic internet research on an industry topic and packaging it up like a PhD dissertation to make your boss think you’re worth your paycheck. 

Your deep dive on the resurgence of low-rise jeans was incredible! 

Thanks, I got most of it from TikTok. 

Downtime (noun) 

A myth that you will at some point in the near future have zero assignments on your plate, and instead of using that hypothetical free time to catch up on Below Deck, you’ll enthusiastically jump into pointless busy work. 

Maybe when you have some downtime you can reorganize the product closet. 

Great, can I bring my pet unicorn with me? 

Excited (adjective) 

You’re going to live and die by the word “excited.” It’s a non-negotiable corporate nicety. While we mutually understand that no one is ever excited about anything, ever, it must be said, like when two white people pass each other on a hike and offer a breathy “hi,” with an accompanying half-smile. 

Thanks everyone for joining this brainstorm on social media concepts for our client’s new AI-driven cloud computing software. 

You got it, Chelsea. Super excited to dive in! 

Face Time (noun) 

A calculated effort to get one-on-one time with your boss so you can ask her questions about her kids’ birthday parties in the hopes that she’ll eventually warm to you and give you more money. 

Ugh, my jaw hurts from all the fake smiling I had to do in my 1×1 with Rebecca. 

They call it face time for a reason. 

Fire Drill (noun) 

An emergency situation that causes you to snap at your colleagues and maybe throw a stapler at an intern. 

Did you see that Sophie Turner unfollowed Priyanka Chopra on Instagram? 

No, I had a fire drill this morning when my client accidentally posted a pic from his Furry Convention to main. 

Good Catch (noun) 

A way to avoid admitting fault when a colleague corrects one of your fuck-ups. 

Hey! Looks like you left the client on CC on that email where you called the campaign assets uglier than Steve Buscemi in an Ariel wig. I just removed her from the chain. 

Ah, good catch!  

In The Weeds (noun) 

This term unfortunately has nothing to do with gardening, and everything to do with getting caught up in the small details of a project. Similar to bandwidth, it’s typically used to signify how critical you are to an organization that wouldn’t blink twice if you fell into an Insidious-style coma.

Should we go cry in the bathroom? 

I wish. I’m so in the weeds with this merger. Oh, by the way, your job is about to become redundant, so you might want to reactivate LinkedIn premium. 

Lunch & Learn (noun) 

An opportunity to eat a free Pret A Manger salad wrap while the CEO’s friend from college gives a talk about audience segmentation while you zone out. 

I’m so glad there’s a lunch & learn today — I spent $87 on espresso martinis last night.  

Low-Hanging Fruit (noun) 

Layups that don’t have the strongest ROI, but give the appearance that you’re taking at least some measure of initiative instead of just twiddling your dick. 

Should we show face at the Celebrating Men in Leadership mixer? 

Yeah, it’s low-hanging fruit. 

Manage Up (verb) 

An excuse for your boss to set ridiculous deadlines, give unclear directions, and ignore your Slack messages. It’s on you to manage up! 

These updates to the deck look terrible. 

On slide 5 you said you wanted more cowbell, but on slide 7 you said you wanted less, so I found the feedback to be contradictory. 

Well, I’m gonna need you to manage up next time. 

Merit Increase (noun) 

A 2-5% pay increase that barely adjusts your salary for cost of living and inflation. Your boss will swear up and down that he “pushed so hard for this” (AKA sent one email to finance) in an attempt to guilt you into feeling grateful for the bare minimum instead of pursuing a counter. 

Did you hear back on your merit increase this year? Mine is 3%. 

Does that even cover an extra Starbucks per month? 


Ninja (noun) 

How obnoxious millennial startups advertise the type of employee they’re looking for in job postings. While proficiency in throwing stars is not necessary, you will be expected to assassinate your KPIs, spend 12 hours a day at your dojo desk, and fight off crippling depression. 

We’re looking for a jack-of-all-trades ninja to wear as many hats as you can possibly stack on your dopey little head! Get ready for a work-hard-play-hard environment, where you’ll do the jobs of three employees for the pay of one summer intern. 

Offline (noun) 

A polite way to tell a colleague that they’re wasting everyone’s time and/or embarrassing you on a group call. 

Michelle, how are you feeling after vomiting into an upside-down traffic cone after last night’s Christmas party? 

We can talk about that offline. 

Out-of-the-box (adjective) 

Used to describe the desire for a creative, original idea that isn’t too creative. Like, it should be different from ideas we’ve pitched before, but only slightly different. If it’s at all interesting or provocative, you’ve gone too far, so actually, maybe you should just stay in the box on this one, sport. 

We need to wow the client with a splashy, out-of-the-box campaign that’ll really knock their socks off. I’m thinking we do a flight of subway ads that use the winky face emoji. 

Opportunity (noun) 

As soon as you hear this word, start mentally preparing yourself for the worst possible news. What’s about to follow is your manager wrapping a month-old cut of tilapia in gold foil and calling it a gift. 

We’d love for you to lead a task force for the clean up and reorg of all 3,000 of our outdated Excel spreadsheets. This should be an amazing leadership opportunity for you. You’re welcome! 

Personality Hire (noun) 

The worst person you will ever meet. 

Are you going to the karaoke happy hour later? 

Ew, no. I don’t need to spend my Thursday night listening to the personality hires butcher Les Mis. 

Post-Mortem (noun)

Basically a Bravo Housewives reunion to hash out all of the drama after a big project. The knives will be out from the jump, and while the official goal is to “discuss key learnings and best practices,” your actual agenda is to publicly blame all your mistakes on another team. 

I can’t wait for tomorrow’s post-mortem. Tina from ad ops is going to need to move across the country with a new identity after we’re done with her. I’ve been gathering my receipts for weeks. 

Rockstar (noun) 

A semi-condescending compliment you give to one of your direct reports when they complete a task you’re really glad you didn’t have to do yourself. 

Everyone, thank Jenni for spending two hours waiting in line for our Russ & Daughters’ bagels. Jenni, you’re a rockstar! 

Voluntold (verb)

When a higher-up positions a task outside of your scope as optional in order to deflect smoke, but you both know it’s actually a directive. 

Lindsey, why are you sitting in the dunk tank for the company charity carnival?! 

I was voluntold. 

We (pronoun)


Come to think of it, we should really rewrite this entire proposal to include more words that start with P. 

I’ll get right on that.

Emma Sharpe
Emma Sharpe
Emma Sharpe is a New York based writer and marketer. She's a Kardashian apologist and finds a Survivor metaphor for every life situation. You can find more of her pop culture ramblings at