Corporate jargon can sound like a foreign language

Dear Joan,

In a recent article you used the term “round robin.” I am not familiar with that term. Could you please explain the meaning?



Corporate jargon can sound like a foreign language. This email came from a reader who was not born in this country but I know that he is not alone. There are many people who are unfamiliar with some of the business jargon that is commonly used today.


Here is a glossary of terms to expand your vocabulary:


§         “Tee up” Like in golf, when you tee up a ball, tee up an idea means to position an idea before it is put into play. “I teed it up at the staff meeting to get everyone’s reaction.”


§         “Round robin” In a meeting, everyone takes a turn reporting out on the projects they’re working on. “Should we do a round robin before starting our meeting agenda?”


§         “Touch base” Like in baseball, when the batter runs around the bases before he scores, touching base at work means to go around to the key “players” (people with influence), to gather commitment to a new idea.


§         “Bells and whistles” This refers to something—software, equipment, a product—that has many extra features. “This new computer software has so many bells and whistles, it will take me forever to learn it all.”


§         “Fair-haired boy” A favorite employee a leader is grooming for bigger things. “Tom has only been here for three years and he’s already the CEO’s fair-haired boy.”


§         “Managed out” If someone isn’t performing, a manager may start closing in on that employee by scrutinizing his or her work, providing more feedback and asking for more updates on projects. If the person doesn’t improve, it’s likely the boss will apply more pressure, so the person leaves before he or she is fired. “After three months of constant coaching and weekly meetings, I ended up managing her out.”


§         “Planned turnover” This term is related to managed out. When projecting how many people will be working at a company in the coming year, Human Resources may estimate that a percentage of the population will leave because they are being pressured to improve their performance. “Our turnover projections include both planned and unplanned departures.”


§         “Wing up” Geese in flight form a V formation, where each bird is slightly tucked up under the wing of the bird in front of it. This reduces wind resistance and allows the birds to fly for longer periods. In business, a new employee, or someone fresh out of school, may benefit from extra mentoring to learn their job or the company culture. “I feel frustrated that I haven’t had time to let him wing up. He’s struggling to fit into our corporate culture.”


§         “Push back” When you disagree with an idea or want to offer a different view, tactfully verbalizing those feelings is called push back. Managers who empower their employees to speak their minds encourage this behavior. “If we are going to create a culture of continuous improvement, we must allow our employees to push back.”


§        “Trump” If you’re not a card player, you may not be familiar with this terminology. Some cards have more importance than others and when they are played, they overpower all the other cards and win the hand. In business, some projects have more power than others. “Your Internet project doesn’t trump the needs of the business, so this year your budget will only go up by 5 percent.”

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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