11 Idioms & Expressions You’ll Hear In An International Workplace

Discovering new English idioms and expressions can be a lot of fun. It can also be frustrating, especially when you hear them for the first time in a setting where you want to make the best impression.

Most idioms and expressions you’ll come across in office environments are throwaway lines that are not industry specific. In other words, knowing them has nothing to do with how well you do your job. But because they come up so often in conversation, in meetings, and in emails, it’ll be important for your language learning to know when and how to use them.

1. “Let’s table it.”

Meaning: Postpone a discussion or activity until later. Usually used near the end of a meeting when a conversation is dragging and everyone just wants to go home.

From: Parliamentary procedure.

Example: “You’ve all raised some good points. Let’s table this until next week’s meeting.”

2. “I’ll touch base with you…”

Meaning: To update someone or have a quick conversation with them.

From: Baseball.

Example: “The website needs some work. Think of some ideas for the design, I’ll write the copy, and then let’s touch base next Monday.”

3. “Move the Needle”

Meaning: To make a difference; to have a noticeable impact on something.

From: Scales.

Example: “They hired her to increase sales, but her strategies failed to move the needle.”

4. “Lots of moving parts”

Meaning: A complicated situation with a lot of variables or components. Usually used when it would take too long to explain something in detail.

From: Mechanics, we’re assuming

Example: “We’ve looked at some venues and talked to sponsors and next week we’re going to start working on the marketing for the event. There are lots of moving parts, but luckily we have a great team.”

5. “Get your ducks in a row”

Meaning: Getting yourself organized before doing something.

From: There are a couple of theories. The most obvious (and adorable) one is the way mother ducks organize their ducklings to walk in straight lines while travelling.

Example: “Once we get our ducks in a row — do an appraisal, talk to the lawyers — it should be easy to sell the property.

6. “In the same boat”

Meaning: To be in the same awful situation.

From: Ancient Greeks reflecting on the risks of being out at sea in a small boat.

Example: “You filed the wrong paperwork, too? We’re in the same boat, man.”

7. “Cut corners”

Meaning: To skip small but important steps.

From: Stationary is our guess, here.

Example: “John’s team is making a lot of mistakes and it’s because they’re always cutting corners.”

8. “Long shot”

Meaning: When something has very little chance of working out.

From: Unknown.

Example: “He is not going to get that promotion. Not by a long shot.”

9. “Bend over backwards”

Meaning: Go through a lot of trouble or discomfort to help someone out.

From: The image of bending over backwards is explanation enough.

Example: “I bent over backwards to get her that job, and she is not even trying.”

10. “Win win situation”

Meaning: A situation where every outcome is a good outcome.

From: Unknown.

Example: “Both Plan A and Plan B will make the boss happy. It’s a win-win situation for all of us.”

11. “Cut to the chase”

Meaning: Get to the point, stop wasting time with chit chat.

From: Hollywood. Comedies used to end in chase scenes and inexperienced screenwriters would put a lot of dialogue before them, leading to bored viewers.

Example: “I have to be somewhere in twenty minutes, so can you just cut to the chase?”

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