executive-power-words-341x250Are you a piker who makes a vanilla problem seem like a fire drill because your blue-sky thinking never lands a tombstone?


I’m asking whether you pretend to know everything in order to make a simple work problem seem like a crisis because you want to be seen as a player?

You’re not on your own – jargon is something my clients share with me a lot. So let’s tackle why we sometimes fall into the trap of overdoing the daft talk.

Oh you do have to love a bit of jargon. The BBC used it for ‘boss-speak bingo’ and we’ve been happily amusing ourselves with it in meetings ever since. Except swimming through a career permanently submerged in this way of speaking is quite hard work, isn’t it?

It’s not like we don’t know what plain English is. But we also know why we avoid it in some workplace situations. Jargon is a badge of belonging. It’s the code for your gang and you’re either in – or you’re very out. Basically, you’re right back in the playground.

Most of my clients work in banking but it’s not just a problem of that sector. One of the chief tools for people trying to impress any room is this ridiculous language. I have friends at senior levels in all sectors – and every business has its own bingo card.

But here’s the thing. Inside your work group there’s the space to be the one who changes things. If you understand the lingo but choose to use real, human language instead – guess who gets to look like the one who actually has a much better grip on what’s going on?


You can find the BBC boss-speak bingo card here. Or draw up your own to test out in meetings. Here are a few I’ve borrowed from my clients.

  • Hunting elephants (looking for the big deal)
  • Junked up (super bullish)
  • Tombstone (trophy for nailing a big deal)
  • Building a book (growing your client list)
  • Vanilla (bog-standard financial services)
  • Fire drill (emergency tight deadline)
  • Bullet (loan paid off in full)
  • Gearing (ratio of debt to capital)
  • BSD (The big swinging D… who makes the most money)
  • Bulge bracket (banks with the clout to take on mega-deals)

Feel free to share the loony lingo from your office…

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