The 10 lamest office expressions

Maybe you’ve heard them said, maybe you’ve said them yourself and afterwards felt like slamming your fingers in a draw as punishment, or maybe speaking like a corporate wanker is your bread and butter. We all get sucked into using the various phrases and catchcries that get bandied around by our colleagues from time to time, how can we help it? But if you can avoid them, below is a list of the top 10 wankiest phrases to steer clear of because, well, we shouldn’t have to tell you why…

Touching Base and Reaching Out

Use: “OK, why don’t you touch base with Kira and I’ll reach out to Alan.”

Reach out to Alan. Touch him. Touch him gently at first, but let the passion build. He’ll love the feel of your cold clammy hands on his skin. And what do you want me to do with Kira? Touch her base? I’m already in hot water after the staff Christmas party. Ohhhhh, sorry, it’s a baseball term. Well then it makes perfect sense for you to use it given that we play so much baseball here in Australia. Kira’s just rounding third now so don’t worry, we’ll have her back in the dug-out lamenting the fact she works with a bunch of garble spurting idiots in no time.

Circling Back

Use: “I think you need to speak with Gavin, get the necessary inputs, and then circle back with me. Sound like a plan?”

No, it most certainly does not. What do you mean circle back? I know that working at this place often feels like we’re going around in circles but are we actually going orienteering? Because that would be amazing compared to working on this Powerpoint presentation that nobody is going to pay attention to. Should I pack a compass and some scroggin or are you just saying that I should speak with Gavin and then give you a summary of what Gavin and I talk about so that you and I can progress the issue we were talking about before you asked me to call Gavin…my head hurts, can we just set up camp here and tell ghost stories now?

Back on Deck

Use: “Hey Suzanne, it’s just John calling to let you know that I’m back on deck after my holiday, so if you’ve got anything you need help with, give me a shout.”

Aaaargghhh, ’tis good to have ye back on deck ya salty seadog. But tell me now, wherrrre have ye beeeen?

Seriously, you’re not a f&%king pirate. I used to sit outside the office of a slick partner of a law firm who spent most of his time mincing around the beaches of the Amalfi Coast, hence on those rare occasions when he actually was in the office he’d constantly be calling people to remind them that he was ‘back on deck’. Not sure exactly what it is about this one. Could be the fact that if you asked most twits who use it to tie you a reef knot they’d tie you a double windsor. Could be that pirates and the sea faring captains of days of yore will always be cool, and any attempt to appropriate pirate speak into a corporate setting is just unfathomably lame. You were never on deck, mate. You were sitting in your office amongst a thick air of self-importance and your own farts and then you went and strutted around the Mediterranean for a couple of weeks. Maybe you got on a boat while you were there, but I’ll bet you a soy cappuccino that you don’t know where the hell your starboard and port sides are or how to stave off scurvy…You’ve been away, and now you’re back — ‘nuff said.

The Helicopter View

Use: “This task is a little bit all over the place. I think we need to take a helicopter view of things.”

Sure thing, buddy. Let me just go fire up the Huey so we can get some elevation and look down on this steaming pile of shit of a task. To be honest, we’re probably better just to drop some napalm on it and be done with things. Just be sure that you clear an LZ for when we come back down to earth and have to face the glaring realisation that we’re just a couple of catchphrase loving douchebags who should have used the word ‘broad’.


Use: “Speak with the guys in commercial, ask them if they have anything we can leverage off.”

But I hate having to call the guys in commercial and ask them for a favour. They’re so f%&cking patronising. They act like they’re better than me because they deal with non-specific issues under the broad umbrella of “commercial” and I’m just a kitchen sink-stain who works in a highly narrow field where I basically do the same task 37 times a day with only slight variances each time in the way that I do it. And what do you mean leverage? Is there some counterweight pulley system I first need to master before those self-proclaimed legends in commercial will render me assistance? Screw this; I’m going to the kitchen to make a green tea with those company supplied green tea bags made from the finest recycled Chinese tea leaves.

Performance Management

Use: “Oh did you hear about Tracy, they’re performance managing her out of the company…”

So what you’re saying is that they realised Tracy was pretty ordinary in her role a little while ago and what they’re going to do is not say anything to her like: “Hey Tracy, we’ve been noticing that you’ve been getting into work a little late the past couple of weeks and, to be honest, your standard of work hasn’t been up to the standards of what we employed you to do. We’d like you to improve your game otherwise we’re going to have to think about whether you’re right for this role….” No, you’re not going to do that. You’re just going to give her the silent treatment, not give her any work, be really passive aggressive towards her and hope that she gets the message. That sounds like a good plan. Only problem is, Tracy lives for office stalemates where you play a game of chicken and see who sacks who or who walks first…Guess what? The reality is Tracy is just gonna continue to roll up here and put her pasta salad on the second shelf of the communal fridge of a morning and collect that undeserved pay cheque every fortnight because you don’t have the balls to confront her about her poor performance.


Use: “Well, I’d love to help you out but like you, I’ve got my own KPIs that I have to meet.”

Urgh, what a load of penguin shite. As far as I can see, KPIs are just a measure to assess how much of an uncooperative and non-collaborative twat you can be to others in pursuit of you own personal success. Here’s hoping that that bonus is worth losing the respect of the 10 co-workers you had to step on to get it.

Downing tools

Use: “OK, thanks for that updated information Gabby, we’ve been busily working away but we’ll down tools until we hear back from you.”

What is it about professionals borrowing blue collar speak to make themselves seem more real and with it? Tradies across the nation would choke on their meat pies if they knew that pompous fools with tie clips and pocket squares were comparing their work to that of life on the building site. It’s just not on. But don’t worry mate, if you concentrate hard enough to dredge up that imagination you once had before this corporate prison squeezed all sense of hope and life out of you, you might be able to pass-off that stapler as a nail gun. Use it to staple a note to your forehead that says “I am a big goober”.

Taking things off-line

Use: “Greg, why don’t you and I take this off-line so we don’t waste anyone’s time in this meeting?”

Greg, obviously what I mean is that you are Keanu Reeves’ Neo and I’m Laurence Fishburn’s Morpheus. While the subject of what we need to talk about is way less exciting than limbo-ing under bullets or having Samurai sword fights on top of moving trucks, why don’t we unplug from The Matrix and continue this conversation in the galley of the Nebuchadnezzar over a hot bowl of 22nd century gruel away from anyone else? Seriously, why? We live in the real world. You and Greg aren’t online, you’re in a real conversation. Just tell him you’ll talk to him about this particular issue separately.

Babysitting a file

Use: “Hey Derek, I need you to babysit this matter for me while I’m away on leave. There shouldn’t be much to do on it; most of the work is done so if anything, it might just need a bit of admin from you. Is that cool?”

Run, Derek. Run before that hand grenade that they just lobbed over your fence nestles itself between your legs and blows your face off. Let’s be real, if this file was easy, you would have closed it out before you went on leave. My guess is that it’s been thrashing around under that pile of papers on your desk for the past few months waiting for some poor naïve sod like Derek to come along before it rears its 9 headed Hydra-like form and creates the mother of all shitstorms. Babysitting should just involve playing a couple of games of Uno with the kids before you put them to bed and settle onto the couch to enjoy Mr and Mrs Marshall’s amazing Pay TV subscription and freezer full of Ben & Jerry’s for the 3 hours you have until they get home from their swingers party and you collect your hard earned. I’ll bet you good money that this brattish little toddler of a file that you want me to take care of is going to scream and splutter so much that it wakes up the neighbours. When a request like this comes your way, it’s a good bet you’re about to receive a hospital handball, so push back if you can, Derek.