Below is a story about two men working in an office job. You will get to see all kinds of different colloquial expressions they use related to work. These expressions are common, everyday ones that everyone will understand.
Read the story and listen to the audio if you want, then scroll to the bottom of the page for the definitions.
It was Monday morning and people were arriving to the office and wandering to their desks, still half asleep. They worked for an international sales company and had a busy day ahead of them.
Michael: I think I bit off a bit more than I could chew. I am just swamped with work now and I’m not sure where to start first.
Billy: So, what you’re asking is that you want me to do your work for you?
Michael: Not at all. Well, basically I have 2 clients coming in for a meeting in 5 minutes, but they’ve both been scheduled for the same time. Do you think you could cover for me just this once?
Billy: And the 500 other times? Sorry but just to clarify you want me to hold a meeting in your name and pretend to do your job?
Michael: In a nutshell, yes!
*In the meeting*
Billy: Hello my name’s Billy and I’ll be filling in for Michael today as an important issue has come up that he has had to deal with. Today I would like to outline our plans for creating more interest in our product throughout European countries.
Mark: Hi Billy, yes you touched on this subject on the phone and I’m curious to see what ideas you have to offer. Let’s get down to business. Please go on.
Billy: Well as you know our company’s best-selling product is dog chew toys. It would appear that European dogs just don’t want our chew toys as much as they do in England. I just can’t figure this out.
Mark: From my perspective, it’s a little different. Let me explain. It’s not the dog that buys the products – it’s the owners. You need to market your product to a wider audience rather than focusing on British issues to entice a British clientele. Any ideas as to how you would accomplish this?
Billy: Hmmmm… I’ll get the ball rolling. How about hiring regional marketing teams to produce adverts in each individual country? That way the problem is taken out of our hands and it will keep our company ahead of the curve. It’s a no brainer. They’ll do all the work for us and it’s smooth sailing from then.
Mark. That might be a good idea, but I fear it may be an uphill battle. I’m not allowed to just accept your proposals without asking my boss. And your company would have a lighter workload, which I can see you need as you’ve clearly taken on more than you can handle. However, you would also have to take the costs of hiring these teams into consideration. Is it even worth it? I’ll have to sleep on this and get back to you. If this fails you’ll be back to square one again.
Billy: Okay I understand, it’s a big proposal and it might take some time. If it works then it’s win-win, but there is a lot at stake here. Let’s call it a day. I would love to meet again while you’re still in the UK - preferably ASAP. Does Friday suit you?
Mark: Not really, how does next Thursday sound?
Billy: I can do that! I’ll see you then.
*After the meeting*
Michael: So how did it go?
Billy: It was great, I think. I came up with an idea by myself and he said he needs some time to think about it. But I think I’ve sussed the problem. Let me tell you, I can do your job better than you can!
Michael: Well funny you should say that. I’ve managed to arrange sale agreements with every state in the USA. Now dogs all over America will be squeaking on our toys.
To bite of more than you can chew - To start something too difficult for you to finish
To take on more than you can handle - Same as above
To be swamped - To be overworked, too much to do
Cover for (someone) / To fill in for someone - To do someone's work when they are away
In a nutshell - To summarise something briefly
To touch on - To mention something briefly
To get down to business - A common phrase to end chit-chat and begin talking about the important stuff
To get the ball rolling - To begin the flow of a conversation by saying something small (like a snowball getting larger down a hill)
To be ahead of the curve - To be one step ahead of competitors
No-brainer - Something obvious that doesn't require thought
Smooth Sailing - Having no problems (a sailing metaphor)
Uphill battle - Something that's difficult to do, good chance of failure
To sleep on (something) - To go to sleep before making a decision on a problem
Back to square one - When you fail and have to start at the beginning again
Win-win - A situation in which both sides win
At stake - At risk of being lost
To call it a day - To end a talk or work and (usually) go home
ASAP - As Soon As Possible
To suss - To figure something out