The office. The place where you possibly spend more time than you do in your own home. The place where work husbands and wives are made and potlucks are shared (or avoided). Daily, we, along with our coworkers, may talk about a lot, but we say things we really don’t mean. Here are a few things you may hear in your office that have a hidden meaning.

“Give me about five minutes…”

Translation: I need about 15-20 minutes to finish up whatever I’m doing right now, even if it’s nothing. Don’t rush me.

That project your team member wants to discuss “in detail” or that dreaded introductory chat with the new intern or staff person about what your job duties are and how much you love working at your employer is the last thing on your mind. Go ahead and admit it: when he peeks his head in office or cubicle in exactly five minutes, you secretly wish you could disappear. Unless we give a specific time, we’re rarely ever ready in five or ten minutes. It’s a definite unspoken office rule. Get with it.

“When you get time, can you *insert random request here* ____________”

Translation: Drop what you’re doing, and give me what I need NOW.

Your supervisor calls you to ask for a report, status on a project or whatever he/she wants, but prefaces it with “when you get a chance” only to call you back five minutes later to follow-up on the request. Chances are whatever you were doing five minutes before, you’re still doing it. Your supervisor knows that, but he/she doesn’t care.

“I’m on a conference call.”

Translation: I’m on a conference call, but I’m muting the conversation to work on more important projects with deadlines or…talk to my friends on Gchat, read gossip blogs or tweets.

Ah yes, conference calls: the gift and the curse. Unless you’re the host, or you have to take the lead in the call, that’s the perfect time to look busy without having to do much at all. Let’s be honest and admit that 85 percent of what’s said during a conference is snoozefest material. How many times have we done everything but pay attention during those long calls? The best part about them though? Usually someone else prepares and sends notes from the meeting. Sounds like a winner to me.

“Can you help me with something?”

Translation: I need something done that I should already know how to do (i.e. working the copy machine, rebooting my computer, etc.). You’ve showed me a million times, but can you DO it for me?

This is all too common in the nonprofit industry where tech departments and interns/assistants who usually do the dirty work are luxuries. There’s always that one co-worker who doesn’t know how to do anything no matter how many times you assist them. Instead of taking notes the first time around, he/she would rather depend on you (or anyone else they track down) to do it. Really, how many times do I have to show you how to use Excel? I’m sure there’s an app for that.

“I’m out for a meeting.”

Translation: The meeting that was scheduled was cancelled or ended early, but instead of coming back to the office, I’m going run personal errands on the clock.

Don’t be ashamed. We’ve all done it, or at least tried to. Bank runs, shoe shopping, and salon appointments can all be taken care of when you’re out for a day of meetings. The only thing you have to do is make sure you don’t run into your boss while you’re doing it.

“I’m forwarding the email I sent you.”

Translation: Oh, you wanna play games? You got my email, and I have the proof.

Saving sent mail and read receipts is a mutha. There’s nothing as rewarding as forwarding a sent message that someone adamantly insists you didn’t send. In the working world, besides teamwork and company morale, Cover Your Ass (C.Y.A.) is the motto. If you don’t, no one else will.

“Did you have a good weekend?”

Translation: I want to sound concerned, but I’m really not. Please don’t run down your list of errands and family events. A simple “nothing much” will suffice.

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Unless this is your work buddy, you’re probably not interested in what the guy who never washes his hands before the employee luncheon did over the weekend. Why ask then? Because it’s just what we do, but there’s no need to actually answer the question. You’d think everyone knew that by now.

What other catch phrases do you hear in your office that are doublespeak?

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  • Insight

    “I’ll be working from home today”

  • Sydney

    “…or that dreaded introductory chat with the new intern…”

    As a person who has just started an internship this week, now I feel like I have bothered half the people at my office lol

  • Lattelicious

    Whew, been there on the CYA deal. Also the send receipt is a godsend, been there too. But the killer is when they talk about team work, when you are the only one doing the work and the whole team wants to take credit for your hard work!!!!!! Been there too. Corporate is a mutha!!!!!!!