Top 5 office phrases you need to understand


There are many ways to express disappointment, criticism and approval in my work life. Here are the top 5  phrases I’ve heard over the years:

5. “We need to move the needle!”

My first reaction to this was, ‘what needle’??? I totally didn’t get it but I know now that it means we need to improve profitability, performance or whatever the speaker fancies.

4. “It’s revenue gone begging!”

I still don’t really get this one to be honest. I think it means that we are losing money that should otherwise be in our pockets??? If someone out there knows how revenue might actually be begging, please get back to me – thanks.

3. “We are just navel-gazing.”

This literally means we are staring at each other’s belly-buttons. So our shirts are either off or too short…. On closer examination, I think it means we are giving each other credit for work that perhaps needs external validation? Again, any geniuses out there can correct me.

2. “We need to get into bed with the customer…”

Eh, there’s no sexual misconduct happening here – promise. This means we need to get closer to the customer, show them some love, TLC. It’s an obvious one I think. I remember wishing this wasn’t thrown around in meetings so much – it made me uncomfortable.

1. “We can’t keep drinking our own bath water!”

I agree because that is a pretty disgusting thing to do. This phrase has the same naming as the navel-gazing comment but it’s obviouslymore…poignant.

Later x

Toilet talk

I was on the toilet seat for a few seconds when I suddenly bounced up. I don’t know why. I just panicked. Sigh, I’ll tell you about it.

I was halfway to the toilet when another young lady appeared from a side door, and fell alongside me. It became apparent that we were both going to the ladies’ restrooms. I had seen her around but never spoken to her. She was kind enough to keep every door we went through open. I said, ‘thank you’ along with some other pleasantries. And just like that I broke the first rule of restroom etiquette:


I let it go, forgiving myself almost instantly. But as I entered the toilet stall, I noticed that my companion entered the stall right next to me. Oh my God. I mean, there were about 5 empty stalls there (I had a quick glance and yes, I counted). Why the one next to me? Two rules broken in a matter of minutes:


I had planned on doing only “number 1” but I tend to use toilet time as thinking time so I stay longer, reflecting on my thoughts. And sometimes, halfway between thinking and reflecting, I might do “number 2”.

Photo courtesy of Happy Little Nomad

Anyway, I started to hear noises and farting from the next stall. I suddenly realise that I’m actually sitting side by side with the noise maker, only separated by an obviously very thin cubicle wall – romantically waiting on the Poop gods. Then, I panicked. I just couldn’t do it. How can we ever look each other in the eye again? What, will we end up washing hands side by side at the sink?? As the smell began to spread through my stall, I bounced up. I frantically pulled my trousers up and dashed out of the stall at lightening speed. I had to leave before she got out. I can’t break anymore rules today:


All in all, it was a good, quick escape. But it left me breathless and frankly, still needing the toilet.

Later that day, I saw her again. Our eyes met and then….she spoke to me. She was pretty, friendly and clever, and probably had no idea the life-threatening extents I had gone to protect her. The whole thing kind of made me like her. I mean, she is human and humans use the toilet. We are ladies and we watch each others’ back. We waved goodbye as I got into my car. It was then I wondered if she had heard the fart I tried so hard to suppress in our time side by side in the toilet stall. If she did, she didn’t let it show. Who knows? We may be best friends one day.

3 Real Reasons Why Engineers Don’t Want To Be Managers

You may have read similar-titled articles by top execs or by practitioners claiming to know something about how the minds of engineers’ work. Well, this here is my own opinion, fuelled by my experiences so far. To set the scene, you need to know that I’m a black woman approaching my mid 30s and armed with 2 engineering qualifications. I’ve recently dipped my toes in the waters of business and management i.e. taking on non-engineering roles. I’m also completing an MBA degree. Now that we’ve gotten that “stiff” intro out of the way, let’s get down to my reasoning.

You should have seen the faces of my friends and colleagues when I opted to try a non-engineering role. They didn’t understand my motives and I didn’t understand why they didn’t understand. Over the past 18 months. I’ve enjoyed getting in touch with my creative (and sometimes “fluffy”) side. For most engineers, that’s the problem right there. And now, even I am beginning to understand why…

1. Take job descriptions for instance. An ad for an engineer is often clear. The recruiter is looking for X number of years experience in this tool or that tool. They will require sound understanding of key principles e.g. fluid mechanics or production engineering or operations research and so on. You either have these or you don’t. Ads for managers are a little less straight-forward. Requirements like “Demonstrated leadership qualities” or “Ability to manage people” are not so obvious. I mean, does the annual school play with 30 children that I direct every Christmas count? I manage people all day every day – including my 2 children and 1 husband and numerous in-laws – does this count? You get the idea.

2. Let’s look at “managing people” more closely. Most engineers I know don’t really like people (I mean that in a good way!). There’s perhaps a valid concern that managing people requires counseling skills or the likes meaning suddenly, the standard chair in your new office marked “General Manager” may be exchanged for a 3-seater sofa. You do need to tolerate people (you don’t have to like them) and you need to be willing to listen actively. Still, with all the best management skills nothing can prepare you for that employee who comes into your office on a Monday morning saying, “look! I’ve grown a horn!” There’s never a dull moment…

3. Then there’s the basic fluffiness of it all. It’s unclear what you actually do…so don’t be surprised if the word along the corridors is that you do “nothing”. Don’t take it personally. You’re probably trying to ensure positive business impact by implementing printed strategies but this is rarely obvious. You may even be forced to implement a strategy you don’t agree with, or that you think lacks logic (shhhh!). Engineers despise the illogical so forgive them if they opted out of that “game show”.

In the end, there are significant advantages to both career paths. If you are comfortable with being a specialist at what you do – and you’re bloody good at it, then I can see how that can be profoundly rewarding. But having skills that are not always clearly defined; and having to deal with people as well as finding a balance between the logical and your instincts is what makes a great manager. And let’s face it – someone has to manage the engineers. Not an easy task I would imagine.

Making the switch has come with its challenges. I recently sat in a marketing course and watched as 52.5% and 63.5% added up to 100% on a PowerPoint slide. I didn’t dare say a word…

%d bloggers like this: