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Are your colleagues using business jargon or are there unwritten rules at work that you do not know yet? We guide you through the workplace minefields!

Bright Plus

3 min. reading time

You thought that the school had prepared you well for life in the workplace?  Yet, sometimes unwritten rules seem to apply and your colleagues employ a jargon you do not understand. Are you are clueless as to what is expected of you when you have to 'short-circuit' or 'outsource' something? And do you really not know why people look up when your mobile phone rings? We will now reveal to you all the workplace secrets.

Unwritten rules in the workplace

Every company has them: a set of rules that everyone naturally follows without ever speaking them out. The best way to learn them is to keep an eye on your colleagues.  Do they something dare make a private phone call during working hours or do they look quite upset when your mobile begins to ring softly? Rather than wait for someone to pass a comment, take their reaction into account to adapt your own habits. In any case, as a newcomer, you should stick to some basic rules in the first few weeks:

  • Turn the volume down on your mobile and limit your private calls to a minimum.
  • Pay attention to the way you dress and wear your hair: It is better to appear slightly overdressed at work than to show up in a messy or overly casual outfit.
  • Have breakfast at home or on the way in, not at your desk.
  • Each company has its own rules for Internet use. In any case, limit or avoid the use of social media. Unless you are specifically asked to do so, naturally.
  • You may be used to listening to music while working, but it's not everyone's cup of tea. Likewise, most employers are not really happy to see you constantly streaming music from the Internet, because it will overload the capacity of the network. What's more, some people may peg you as antisocial if you listen to music on your headphones all day while working. So, give that up, unless it is a common practice among your colleagues.
  • Even though there is a special room for smokers at work, it does not mean you can make unlimited use of it during working hours. If you can barely suppress the urge to light up a cigarette, reduce your smoking breaks to the lunch break.

The office jargon: an introduction

The typical language that is spoken in the workplace depends on the sector in which you work and is also evolving quickly. You will find below a list of some commonly used terms from the general business jargon to help you get started.

  • Con Call: A conference call or a phone call which involves the participation of several individuals at the same time.
  • Accept or decline an invite: To accept or reject an invitation – usually to place an appointment or a meeting in your electronic calendar.
  • Outsource something: To entrust a task or jobs to an external partner.
  • Short-circuit or bounce an idea off someone: To discuss an idea with someone.
  • Follow-up: To keep an eye on something and take care of it.
  • Back or retro-planning: a schedule that counts back from the date on which a project should be ready to determine when each task should be started.
  • To take/have the lead: To take or have the lead in a project.
  • Out of the box: outside the constraints of conventional thinking, in a creative way.
  • Give feedback: give feedback, a reaction to something.
  • Debrief: a discussion that you organise after, for example, a project or an activity.
  • A pitch: A brief presentation during which you present an idea.
  • Brainstorming: a meeting during which you come up with new ideas, concepts, etc. in a group.
  • Core business: the core or main activities of a company.
  • Proactively: on one's own initiative, in an entrepreneurial way.
  • Fine-tune: to work out something in detail, dotting the i's and crossing the t's.
  • Best practices: the best way to approach a task.
  • Asap: as soon as possible
  • Bilateral consultation: a conversation in private.