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Work-Related Idioms and Slang


Idiom/Slang What does it mean? How might I say it in a sentence?
11th hour Right before the deadline; time is almost up (12 is the deadline) “We finished cleaning that house at the 11th hour, just before the renters came in.”
A day late and a dollar short Too late and not enough. “We are a day late and a dollar shortbecause no customers want to buy this older cell phone model.”
A fresh pair of eyes A new and different perspective “We need a fresh pair of eyes on this project because we have been working on it for too long.”
A piece of cake Easy, uncomplicated “I can build these easy models in 10 minutes—this job is a piece of cake!”
Accident waiting to happen An arrangement that might result in damage or injury “Stop stacking those boxes so high—that is an accident waiting to happen.”
All ears Ready to listen and pay attention “Go ahead and explain it to me, I am all ears.”
All work and no play The focus is on work, and there is no opportunity for fun. “We cannot chat at work at all because our boss is all work and no play.”
Arm’s length At a distance equal to the length of an arm; not close to physically “I should stand an arm’s length away from someone when talking to them.”
Arm’s length Not emotionally close to; apart or away from “You should keep her at arm’s length because she cannot be trusted.”
A.S.A.P. Stands for As Soon As Possible; top priority, needs to be done now “I need to finish cleaning those rooms A.S.A.P.!”
Back burner A lower priority; not as important right now “Let’s put that task on the back burner until we finish these more important tasks.”



Idiom/Slang What does it mean? How might I say it in a sentence?
Back to square one Return to the beginning; starting over “Our plan did not work at all, so now we are back to square one.”
Bad mouth Talk about in a negative way; gossip “It hurts my feelings when a co-worker bad mouths me to their friend.”
Bang up job An excellent job; good work “His boss was so happy with him because he did a bang up job yesterday.”
Beat around the bush Avoid saying or doing something; to delay “Don’t beat around the bush, just tell me why you are upset.”
Beat the clock Finish in time; finish before the deadline “You are going to have to hurry if you want to beat the clock.”
Beating a dead horse Talking about an idea or issue too much or too long. “We need to stop beating a dead horse because we have already talked about this and made a decision.”
Behind closed doors In private, confidential “You should talk to him about this behind closed doors because customers should not hear it.”
Bend over backwards Try very hard to please someone “Sometimes, you have to bend over backwards to make customers happy.”
Bent out of shape Upset, frustrated, stressed “The customer was bent out of shape because he had to wait in line for 15 minutes.”
Big fish The boss; the person in charge “Kelly is the big fish in this department, so we need to listen to her.”
Bite off more than you can chew To take on more work than you can handle “Don’t bite off more than you can chew by offering to repair all 27 of those hard drives. “



Idiom/Slang What does it mean? How might I say it in a sentence?
Bite someone’s head off To yell at someone suddenly “If I don’t get some sleep later, I am going to bite someone’s head off!”
Bite the bullet To accept, face, or deal with the consequences “You are just going to have to bite the bullet and apologize for that mistake.”
Bite your tongue Keep your thoughts to yourself “Bite your tongue and don’t argue with your supervisor.”
Bounce ideas To take turns sharing ideas with each other “Let’s all have a meeting so we can bounce ideas around.”
Brainstorm When two or more people develop a solution or idea together “Let’s brainstorm a new way to organize these books.”
Break even Not making money and not losing money “I pretty much broke even after I received my $500 paycheck and then paid my $450 rent.”
Bring home the bacon Bring home money; to get paid; bring home a paycheck “If you want to buy a new car, you need to bring home the bacon.”
Broke Having no money, poor “I am broke because I spent my entire paycheck on video games.”
Brown nose Flatter someone in effort to gain favor or advantage “My co-worker is such a brown nose, he is always trying to tell the boss how great she is.”
Brownie points Recognition or favor by the boss “I am going to work late this week and try to get some brownie points from my supervisor.”
Buckle down Get focused, start working; get the job done “You need to buckle down and finish this assignment!”


Idiom/Slang What does it mean? How might I say it in a sentence?
Burn the candle at both ends Working too hard, for too long, and on too many things “He is burning the candle at both ends by working here during the day and then waiting tables at night.”
Burn your bridges End a relationship in a bad way with no chance of repairing it. “If you quit without giving any notice to your boss, you will burn your bridges there.”
Burning the midnight oil Working late into the night “I have been burning the midnight oil lately in order to get this project done on time.”
Business as usual Same as always; no change in the routine; what is expected “Even though the weather was really bad, it was business as usual for the landscaping company.”
Call it a day Time to go home, the end of the workday “It is 6pm and I have wrapped all the boxes, so let’s call it a day.”
Call the shots In charge, makes the final decisions “My supervisor calls the shots on how we should store the data.”
Canned Fired, removed from the job “She was canned because yelled at her boss.”
Chill out Relax, take a break; calm down “Today has been really stressful, so I need to just go home and chill out.”
Climb the corporate ladder Move up, advanced, get promoted in a company “After working here for 6 years, I am finally starting to climb the corporate ladder.”
Close up shop Close a business at the end of the day “It’s 5pm and so it’s time to close up shop for the day.”
Cost an arm and a leg Costs a large amount of money “There is no way I can afford those tickets, they cost an arm and a leg!”


Idiom/Slang What does it mean? How might I say it in a sentence?
Crunch time A time interval before a deadline where you must work really hard to complete something “The project is due tomorrow, so it’s crunch time.”
Dead weight Someone who is a burden; someone who cannot or does not do their job correctly “He never finishes his part of the project, so I feel like he is just dead weight that we have to carry.”
Dirty work Harder, tougher , unpleasant work “Everyone else left, so I had to do the dirty work of moving all of the tables and chairs back to the closet.”
Dog eat dog world A competitive, tough environment “I need to apply and interview for many jobs, because it is a dog eat dog world out there.”
Done deal A deal or agreement that has been made; the issue has been decided “It’s a done deal, I have already accepted that job offer.”
Dot your i’s and cross your t’s Include all necessary details; carefully check for any mistakes “You should dot your i’s and cross your t’s before you turn that report in to the boss.”
Down to the wire Just before the deadline; right before time is up “We were working down to the wirein order to get the products mailed out in time.”
Drag your feet Move slowly or hesitate; resist or avoid something “Don’t drag your feet, just go out there and load those crates.”
Drop someone a line Call someone by phone “I will drop him a line later on today after I read his report.”
Elbow grease Hard work, effort “It’s going to take some serious elbow grease to get all of these plants loaded.”


Idiom/Slang What does it mean? How might I say it in a sentence?
Face the music Face the consequences “I know I messed up, and now I am going to have to face the music.”
For your eyes only Confidential; for no-one else to see “Those private medical records are for your eyes only.”
Front burner A higher priority; a task that should be completed soon or now “Put that task on the front burnerbecause the store opens in only 2 hours.”
Get a grip Relax, calm down, focus on what is important “I need to get a grip and stop worrying about that game.”
Get the ax Get fired “He will get the ax if he keeps showing up to work late.”
Get the boot Get fired “She might get the boot if she is rude to the customers.”
Get the hang of it Starting to understand how to do something; learning something new “Don’t worry, you will get the hang of it after you practice several times.”
Get the pink slip Get fired “I am worried that I might get the pink slip if I miss work again.”
Get the sack Get fired “You will get the sack if you steal the company’s property.”
Go with the flow Accept the situation without argument or resistance; follow the lead of other people “Just try to go with the flow and accept that your schedule might change sometimes.”
Got a case of the Mondays In a bad mood because it’s not the weekend anymore “I have got a case of the Mondays and I do not want to clean today.”
Green New, inexperienced “She just started working here yesterday, so she’s still pretty green.”



Idiom/Slang What does it mean? How might I say it in a sentence?
Hammer out the problems Solve the problems “We need to hammer out the problems before we can even begin to create a new system.”
Have a lot of my plate Very busy, too much to do “I have a lot on my plate right now, so I don’t think I can make it to the movies tonight.”
Have my hands full Very busy, too much to do “I have my hands full with working full time, going to school, and taking care of my pets.”
Hit the ground running Start working on something immediately; start a task without hesitation “I need to hit the ground running if I want to finish this project before the weekend.”
Hump day Wednesday; the middle of the work week “It’s hump day, only two more days until the weekend!”
In over my head Overwhelmed, confused “I feel like I am in over my head in this job—I need some help.”
In stock In the store; available for use and/or purchase “We do have that item in stock right now, let me go get it for you.”
In the black Earning money, making profits “I think we might get a raise this month because the company is in the black.”
In the loop Aware of something; involved with what is going on “She will be mad if we don’t keep her in the loopbecause she is a part of our team.”
In the red Losing money, in debt; in trouble financially “I am worried that we all might lose our jobs because this company is in the red.”
In the swing of things Get involved, focused, active “It might be hard for me to get back in the swing of things after being on vacation for a week.”



Idiom/Slang What does it mean? How might I say it in a sentence?
In the weeds In trouble, overwhelmed “Five tables are ready to order, two tables need their checks, and I have four tables to clean—I am in the weeds!”
It’s not the end of the world It will be okay; everything will be alright; it’s not that bad “Hey, it’s not the end of the world if I forget to bring my lunch one day.”
Jump the gun Start too quickly “Don’t jump the gun and buy more paper before we even know how much paper we need!”
Jump through hoops Work very hard and do many things to please someone “Sometimes, you have to jump through hoops to make customers happy.”
Keep something under wraps Keep something private, hidden, confidential “Let’s keep this under wraps until our supervisor has had a chance to look it over.”
Keep your eye on the prize Stay focused on the goal “Just keep your eye on the prize and try not to get distracted by other things.”
Kiss up Flatter in effort to gain favor, attention, and privileges “Sometimes, I have to kiss up to my customers a little if I want them to buy these products.”
Make a living To earn money so you can bill your bills, buy food, and take care of other needs and wants “It is time for me to get a job so I can make a living.”
Make cold calls Contact people (usually customers) by phone who you do not know “In this sales job, I spend most of my time making cold calls to potential customers.”
Make up your mind Make a decision “Please make up your mind about this project so I know what to do next.”


Idiom/Slang What does it mean? How might I say it in a sentence?
Marching orders Get fired “She received her marching orders after her boss found out what happened.”
Mix business with pleasure To combine personal/social activities with work activities; to engage in personal/social relationships while at work “It is not a good idea to mix business with pleasure, so you should not ask that co-worker out on a date.”
Newbie A new person on the job “I am a newbie, so I don’t know where the copy machine is located yet.”
Nine to five A job the occurs during the traditional workday (9am - 5pm ); when most businesses operate “I am tired of working nights and weekends, I just want a nine to five.”
Nothing ventured, nothing gained If you don’t try something, you will never know if you might have succeeded; don’t be afraid to try “Even though I might not get this job, I am going to apply anyway – nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?”
Off the hook Free from responsibility, obligation, or blame “Don’t worry, the boss found out who really made the mistake, so you are off the hook.”
Off the hook Really good, fun, cool, interesting, or new “Their new album is off the hook!”
On his/her bad side Out of someone’s favor; they are not happy with you or do not like you “You don’t want to get on her bad side because she has a lot of power in this office.”
On his/her good side In someone’s favor; they are happy with you and they like you “I need to stay on her good side because she has a lot of power in this office.”
On the dot At an exact time, not a minute later “You need to finish that job by 10am on the dot.”
On the fence Unsure, undecided “I am on the fence about this – I don’t know which job offer to accept.”



Idiom/Slang What does it mean? How might I say it in a sentence?
On the other hand As another option; an alternative “You could buy this system; on the other hand, you might want to consider this handheld device instead.”
Pass the buck Put the blame or responsibility on someone else “Just take responsibility for what happened and don’t try to pass the buck to someone else.”
Pick up the slack Take responsibility or action when others cannot “I don’t want to have to pick up the slack when he does not do his job correctly.”
Pull a few strings Use connections, power, or advantages to get something done “My old teacher might be able to pull a few strings and help me get that job.”
Pull your weight Do your fair share; take responsibility “You need to pull your weight because this is a team, and we have to get this job done together.”
Pull yourself up by your boot straps Rely on yourself to make things better or to get the job done “I had to pull myself up by my bootstraps after I lost my job.”
Put our heads together Think about an idea/issue together; develop a solution together “Let’s put our heads together and try to figure out what is wrong with this computer.”
Put pen to paper Start writing; begin working “I need to stop talking about this idea and just put pen to paper.”
Quick study A fast learner “You are a quick study –you learned how to use this software in just one hour.”
R. and R. Stands for rest and relaxation; a vacation or break from work “I need some serious R and R after the tough month that I have had. “
Reality check A reminder of what is realistic; a review of what really happened “He needs a reality check –he is never going to be the supervisor of this store.”



Idiom/Slang What does it mean? How might I say it in a sentence?
Roll up your sleeves Start working; do the task; get it done “Ok, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and finish this work.”
Rundown Quick summary; explanation “Ok, please give me a rundown on what happened at yesterday’s meeting.”
Scale back hours Decrease hours “I might need to scale back my hourshere if I have to take 2 classes next semester.”
Shape up or ship out Start doing what you are supposed to do, or leave “That guy has a really bad attitude, so his boss told him to shape up or ship out.”
Show someone the ropes Teach someone how to do something “My co-worker showed me the ropes, and now I feel much more confident about this job.”
Spread too thin Trying to do too many things at time so that you cannot properly devote your time to everything “He took on too many tasks and now he is spread too thin.”
Stamp of approval Expression of agreement or approval “I am happy because when I explained my idea to the boss, I got her stamp of approval!”
Start from scratch Start from the very beginning “We did not set up these tables correctly, so now we have to start from scratch.”
Start off on the right foot Make a good first impression “I want to make sure that I start off on the right foot with all of my new co-workers by being friendly and helpful.”
Start off on the wrong foot Make a bad first impression “I started off on the wrong foot with my co-worker by asking him how much money he makes.”



Idiom/Slang What does it mean? How might I say it in a sentence?
Step on it Hurry up, move quickly “I was running late to work, so I asked the cab driver to step on it.”
Suck it up Accept something without complaining about it “I am going to have to suck it upand accept the fact that not everyone in my office listens to music that I like.”
Sugarcoat Make something seem more pleasant or positive than it actually is “Don’t sugarcoat the issue, just tell him exactly what he did wrong.”
Take someone under your wing Help someone by showing them how to do something; showing support to someone “She was really nice because she took me under her wing and helped me understand how to do this job.”
T.G.I.F. Stands for Thank God It’s Friday, or stands for Thank Goodness It’s Friday; the weekend is almost here and the work week is almost over “T.G.I.F. – I am so ready to sleep in tomorrow morning.”
T.M.I. Stands for Too Much Information; the information shared was too personal and inappropriate “When he told me all about his stomach problems, that was T.M.I.!”
The big picture The larger, complete understanding of a situation “I need to see the big picture here and not just focus on all of the little details.”
The clock is ticking Time is running out; the deadline is approaching “Ok everyone, you need to fill these orders before 5pm, the clock is ticking.”
Think outside of the box Think creatively or differently than usual “Let’s think outside of the box. I am tired of hearing the same old ideas.”
Throw cold water over End, stop, or disagree with someone else’s idea “I made a different suggestion, but he threw cold water over it.”



Idiom/Slang What does it mean? How might I say it in a sentence?
Under the weather Feeling ill, sick “I am feeling under the weatherand so I might have to call in sick today.”
Up-to-date Current, recent information “I need up-to-date information on how to place these orders for my customers.”
Wear many hats Have many jobs, roles, or responsibilities “I wear many hats in this job–I greet customers, repair parts, answer phones, and check billing records.”
What’s up? What is going on? Hello! “Hey, what’s up? I have not seen you in so long!”
Win-win situation A positive outcome for all people involved; everyone “wins” “This is a win-win situation because I will get to work more hours, and my boss gets to have his weekends off.”
Wishy-washy Indecisive, unsure, uncertain “Don’t be so wishy-washy about this, just pick one side of the argument.”
Woke up on the wrong side of the bed In a bad mood, irritated, cranky “I am sorry that I was rude, I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.”
Word of mouth When information is spread by talking, rather than through written words/advertisements “Customers have learned about our restaurant through word of mouth only.”
Work fingers to the bone Work very hard “I have been working my fingers to the bone on this project.”
Work like a dog Work very hard I’ve been working like a dog. I’m going to sleep well tonight!



Date: 2015-12-11; view: 621

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