Corporate jargon 101: The most common business speak words and phrases every fresh grad must know

corporate jargon
Before you make the first step into the working world, pick up some of these corporate jargon. Source: AFP

“Could we move the goalposts?”

“Put a pin in it – let’s pivot and think outside the box.”

“Why are we not grabbing the low-hanging fruit?”

“I don’t have the bandwidth to pick up the slack on these deliverables.”

“Let’s jump on a quick call to touch base and do some whiteboarding.”

If you’re new to the corporate world, you may have heard some of these phrases. Perhaps you had no idea what they meant at first, but along the way, you find yourself hearing them over and over again — and they’ve become phrases you dread hearing. 

You’re not alone. In fact, plenty of other Gen Z and even millennial workers are irritated by the seemingly endless list of corporate jargon. Some have even gone so far as to mock corporate jargon on platforms like TikTok, making fun of rigid corporate culture.

Gen Z, in particular, is still settling into the corporate workspace. Those who graduated during the pandemic may find corporate jargon even harder to integrate and struggle to comprehend their seniors at work. 

But what exactly is it, and how did it come about?

corporate lingo

To move the goalposts means to change the rules while someone is trying to do something, in order to make it more difficult for them. Source: AFP

What is corporate jargon?

Corporate jargon and lingo were created to serve the same purpose as all jargon – to convey specialised meanings to professional groups or communities in shorter terms. It can be useful or necessary for those within the group, but may be meaningless to outsiders or newcomers. 

Ironically, while the purpose of jargon is to facilitate easier communication, many people become confused by it. 

A LinkedIn and Duolingo survey found that 48% of Gen Z and millennials felt left out at work because they couldn’t keep up with corporate jargon and had to change how they spoke to fit in. Some even made mistakes because they didn’t understand a phrase. 

But how did it all begin?

After World War II, businesses in the US were concerned with efficiency, and corporate culture boomed. Many organisations became diversified conglomerates as a result of mergers and acquisitions, and many employees were struggling to feel connected to their companies. 

As a result, corporate jargon emerged. In simple terms, it made people feel more exclusive and fancy and that they were different from the regular folk. 

“Jargon is the verbal sleight of hand that makes the old hat seem newly fashionable; it gives an air of novelty and specious profundity to ideas that, if stated directly, would seem superficial, stale, frivolous, or false,” writes poet and critic David Lehman in his 1991 book, Signs of the Times. “The line between serious and spurious scholarship is an easy one to blur, with jargon on your side.”

Now, it has trickled down into the newer generations, such as millennials and Gen Zs, who are the newest members of the workforce. They are the ones learning to recognise corporate jargon and why their superiors and managers use it so often. 

It’s even harder for international students or migrant workers to pick up corporate jargon, especially if English isn’t their first language.

Fear not – we’re here to help. Before you step into the working world for the first time, here are some commonly used phrases you may hear or see around the office.

corporate lingo

Even animals capitalise on the low-hanging fruit. Source: AFP

A corporate jargon cheat sheet: 20 phrases to know

We’ve created a great corporate jargon sheet covering all your bases (haha). Learn what the terms mean and check out how they would be used in a workplace context. 

Touch base

What it means: To make contact or reconnect. It’s inspired by baseball, and managers love to use this phrase. 

How it’s used: “Let’s quickly touch base about that presentation you were working on yesterday – did you have all the materials you need?” 

Low hanging fruit

What it means: Something that is easy to achieve or take advantage of. Upper management may use this term to describe something that’s convenient or easy to capitalise on. 

How it’s used: “Since we’re in the skincare industry, the female demographic is low-hanging fruit for us.”


What it means: Brainstorming – sometimes literally on a physical whiteboard or a virtual one like Figma. 

How it’s used: “Everyone, let’s do a little whiteboarding. I need ideas on how to tackle this graphic.”


What it means: To use something to its maximum benefit, such as a strategy, relationship or resources. In simple terms, it means “to make the most of.” 

How it’s used: “We have to leverage our client feedback to make amendments to this draft.”


What it means: EOD is an extremely common term used in corporate settings. It means end-of-day and signifies a deadline—only some companies and teams may have different EODs, so take note of that. Your EOD could be 5 p.m., but the customer service team may work a different shift and end at 11 p.m. 

How it’s used: “Could you get this back to me by EOD?”

B2B, B2C

What it means: These two acronyms are frequently used, and it’s common to mix them up. B2B stands for business-to-business and refers to a transaction or service that takes place between one business and another, such as a wholesaler and a retailer.

B2C, on the other hand, refers to business-to-consumer, such as marketing and selling goods or services to customers. Walmart, Netflix, Amazon, and others are examples of B2C.

How it’s used: “B2C marketing has to be done differently from B2B – you can’t sell fifty cars to an individual!”


What it means: The acronym refers to Small and Medium Enterprise. It means a company, or companies, that are neither very small nor very large. Some common SMEs are dental offices, restaurants, legal firms, and even bars.

How it’s used: “The SME market is growing exponentially with the rise of independent business owners.”

Drinking the Kool-Aid

What it means: Blindly believing in and following questionable decisions and ideas. It can be used to describe someone who has unquestionable loyalty or obedience to someone or something. 

How it’s used: “Are you going to drink the Kool-Aid and die for this company when they would replace you in a heartbeat?”

In the pipeline

What it means: Used to describe something in the midst of being planned or used to refer to tasks that need to be completed.  

How it’s used: “I have three other deliverables in the pipeline today, I’m pretty swamped at the moment.”

Eat the frog

What it means: It means completing difficult, tedious, or frustrating tasks before easier tasks. In this context, the difficult task is the frog. If you were to put the task off until later, it would then be referred to as “boiling the frog.” 

How it’s used: “You’ve got a difficult client call at 10 AM later. Will you eat the frog or boil it?”

corporate lingo

Ducks in a row – but corporate! Source: AFP

Ducks in a row

What it means: To have everything under control and organise it in a way that makes sense. It can also mean to be well-prepared for something. 

How it’s used: “We should have all our ducks in a row before that big presentation with the president.”

Put it on the back burner

What it means: To put a task or a responsibility back and revisit it at a later time or date. 

How it’s used: “I can’t handle that right now. Could you please put that on the back burner?” 


What it means: Another extremely popular term, it refers to your workload and is associated with your capability or time to handle a task or situation. 

How it’s used: “Yes, I can have the report written up by today, I have the bandwidth for that.”

Push the envelope

What it means: To try something new or to attempt something more extreme. Commonly used by corporations to describe expanding or dipping their toes into something new.

How it’s used: “We have to keep trying to push the envelope. We have the market for it, but it’s just not the right time for now. 

corporate lingo

There’s no feasible way to boil the entire ocean. Source: AFP

Boil the ocean

What it means: Managers use the term “boil the ocean” to describe an action or task that wastes time.

How it’s used: “Don’t boil the ocean by typing it in manually, just copy and paste it from the client brief.”


What it means: The word itself refers to a sound filling a space or making objects shake. In the corporate sense, it means to affect or appeal to someone in a personal or emotional way.

How it’s used: “Their marketing really resonated with me because I bought it almost instantly.”


What it means: In school and university, we call them presentations. In the corporate world, it’s called a deck. Admittedly, the latter is less of a mouthful to say.

It’s most commonly used in the term “pitch deck,” which is a presentation that provides potential and existing clients with information or an overview of your company’s services, products and plans.

How it’s used: “Have the deck ready by 4 p.m. today.”

In the loop

What it means: To keep someone informed about important information or knowledge on a particular task or subject. 

How it’s used: “I forwarded the email and CC’ed my manager so that she’s in the loop.”

corporate lingo

“Looking for a passionate new hire that’s ready to hit the ground running. Five years of experience required – but fresh graduates are welcome to apply!” Source: AFP

Hit the ground running

What it means: You may have seen this phrase often when looking for jobs. Many corporations love people who can “hit the ground running,” which means to immediately work hard and successfully at a new activity. 

How it’s used: “The new hire has to hit the ground running, we can’t afford to waste time repeating things to them.”

Trim the fat

What it means: To remove unnecessary details, resources or individuals from a company or project. 

How it’s used: “They had to trim the fat – about 8% of their marketing team was laid off.”