Office Language – 5 Work Phrases Translated

Let’s face it. In this day and age, it’s extremely beneficial to be able to communicate in more than one language. How many do I know, you ask? Well let’s see:

  1. English
  2. After seven years of Spanish class, I remember very little outside of how to ask where the bathroom is and how to order a chicken sandwich (both have saved me in desperate situations).
  3. I became obsessed with Korean dramas years ago and have picked up a few key phrases like “Oh my God”, “What did you say?”, and “I know you thought I’ve just been your family’s maid for 20 years but in reality, I am your birth mother.” You know, the basics.
  4. Body language (in my Ursula from “The Little Mermaid” voice)
  5. Thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race, I’ve really honed my Drag Queenese. Yas GAWD!

But one language in which I am completely now fluent, is Office Language. Yes, it IS a real language. It has all the subtle nuances and complexities of any other official language. Some phrases are universal, and others are localized. Here are some favorites that I’ve picked up over the years:

  1. Please advise

Translation: This problem is now out of my hands and the ball is in your court.

This is one of my favorite phrases to use at the end of an email (yet one that I hate to see). It’s basically a safety in case someone asks, “Why wasn’t xyz done?” You can now say, “Well Mona hasn’t confirmed yet.” It may sound like a cop-out, but if you work in an office where people like to point fingers (and believe me, you do), this handy signature could save your butt one day.

  1. When you have a moment…

Translation: Now

This request can be scary enough in an email, but if someone comes up to your desk (especially if it’s a manager), you can bet that they’re not actually asking you to wait for your earliest convenience. And if the phrase is followed by, “…can I see you in my office”, Molly, you in danger girl. (Ten points if you can name that movie.)

  1. Sure, no problem

Translation 1: Sure, no problem.

Translation 2: I’m not going to do what you’re asking me to do, but I don’t want to argue so as soon as you walk away, I’m going to do whatever I want.

This is a tricky one because it can actually mean so many things. But when misused, it can get you in some hot water. You have to learn how to navigate this phrase and make sure you don’t use it when there will be a follow-up. It’s mainly to blow off requests that you know are unnecessary and will be forgotten.
  1. I’m almost finished.

Translation: I haven’t even started.

OK, don’t act like I’m alone in this. Even the most organized and hardworking people (and me), can sometimes overlook something on our to-do lists. My expert advice? Tell them you just have to put some finishing touches on it, then slap that report together as quick as you can.
  1. Happy Friday!

Translation: Thank God I won’t have to see you again for two whole days.

In my office there’s a standard greeting for each day of the week.

Monday again? It feels like we were just here!
Ugh, is it only Tuesday? It feels like a Thursday.
Hump day!
Ooooone more day!
Happy Friday!

All of these can be used as default salutations when you’re caught with a random coworker in the elevator and have nothing better to say. But sometimes you can read a hint of shade behind that “Happy Friday” depending on a person’s inflections. If it’s said with a smile it probably just means “I’m glad it’s Friday”. If it’s said with a raised eyebrow, a sigh, or a head tilt, it means “God I can’t wait to get out of here.”

So now that you’re bilingual, feel free to share some phrases that need translating around YOUR office.

R. Alexandria

p.s. Be sure to follow my new IG account for updates related to this blog and my vlog: @ralexandria6