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Amusing Silly Work place Acronyms


Standing for Save As You Earn, this is one of those incentive schemes that lots of companies offer to try and tie you in. They get in there and offer them just when you join, so by the time you realise how crap the company is you have money tucked up in a SAYE scheme so you don’t want to leave. You’re trapped!

The schemes vary of course in how good they are, but invariably involve you locking away shares in the company at a nice price, or a tax efficient way, the catch of course being that if you leave the company within 3 years or 7 years or whatever, you get diddly squat back, apart from perhaps a piffling amount of interest.


The attitude of a depressing number of workers, and something that all companies would like to redress if possible. Standing for Someone Else’s Problem, it typifies the attitude of those who will never help you out of any situation unless it is directly related to their job and their role. The quickest way to get a reply to an email is to send a nasty request to someone who has just left the team - a nicely worded ‘sorry - SEP’ - email will come back instantly with the details of the poor sucker to pass the request onto.


One of those relating to contact centre staff, the ones who have the extremely stressful job of helping ignorant and irate customers and justifying their companies failing systems and useless products. Well, management are far too busy on the golf course to deal with the riff raff that makes up the customer base).

All of us have probably been SIGs at least once in our time, as it stands for Stroppy Ignorant Git.


This one is particularly aptly titled. We forget about the misery of work by watching them. We often feel like our lives are so unfunny that they must be one long running one. And, in fact, SITCOM has started to describe an increasingly large percentage of us. If you’re a member of the Single Income Two Children Oppressive Mortgage brigade, you have our sympathies. Keep taking those pills!


This one is 100% pure business phraseology. It refers to a Service Level Agreement, or the time period in which it is agreed an action will be performed. So for instance if you need your laptop repaired, the technical community might have an SLA of 5 days in order to fix the broken machine. But because there is no SLA about SLA’s, invariably they are completely unreliable, and the SLA should be taken as the minimum time in which something will get done. Joyous really.


An amusing one this, standing for Situation Normal - All F*cked Up. Perhaps this will come as no surprise, but this one would appear to derive from the Americans during World War II. Of course it has now been more than readily adopted into the work place. Is your manager a SNAFU? If not you’re probably one of a very few lucky people!


Possibly the most well-known of any acronym ever, this stands for Save Our Souls. And, if you haven’t sold out to corporate greed, this is probably something you think every morning on the dreary trudge to work whilst the words ‘woe is me’ echo through your mind. Unless, of course, you actually enjoy work. But that’s just something you pretend to your colleagues right? Surely you don’t really mean it, any more than the colleague who pretends he’s happy to be back at work after the Christmas break!


Bosses love giving the lowly people underneath them a good old SWOT analysis to do. It makes it sound as though they know what they’re doing, and if they read a good one there is a danger that they actually will - scary thought!

SWOT stands for Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats. If you’re bored in the office canteen one day, try constructing a SWOT analysis of all your colleagues. Your fellow workers office conquests are tricky to categorise - so best put them as both opportunities and threats, or better still open the debate to the rest of the office to see what they think.


This is one of those cracking ones that induces a groan in everyone. It is sickly sweet, often untrue, and could only have been dreamed up by the most shameless HR bod one hazy, lazy Summer evening. It stands for - get the sick bag - Together Everyone Achieves More. Equipped with such heady phrases as this and the thought that TINIIT, you can conquer the world. Or die trying.


Standing for Tongue In Cheek, this is ideal to soften any sarcastic comment that you don’t think will be appreciated by the person on the receiving end of the comment! It’s another one of those that has been adapted from email parlance into the world of work. Quite what the origin of tongue in cheek itself is would appear a little obscure. Perhaps when people were being funny in the olden days they literally used to put their tongue in their cheek? Strange!


This is a really good one, and just epitomises the attitude of those in a position of authority within a company. You know what they are like - if something goes well they make damn sure it’s got their name on it. If things go a bit wrong, they make sure they distance themselves as far as possible and blame their inferiors, suppliers or anyone they can possibly palm off the responsibility onto.

And therefore TICTAC stands for: Turnaway If Criticism, Take All Credit. When you think about it, this probably describes most bosses in the world - amazing!


Everyone has to do pointless pieces of work at time where everybody knows that the end product will be useless or never read. But it’s also necessary work, because some head honcho has asked for it and no-one has had the heart to tell him it’s pointless. So you get loaded with the work.

Or another application would be where you get asked to ‘volunteer’ to do a piece of work, give a presentation or attend a course. As we all know, the word ‘volunteer’ is incredibly misleading here, because it’s not a free choice. There Is No Alternative.


This one is pure, hardcore business speak, as it stands for Take It Offline. And if you’ve ever had to take it offline, did you ever wonder whether it made sense since you weren’t online in the first place?

The derivation of this one is disputed, but it probably came from some stupid bosses (I know, controversial) who thought that being online and offline meant whether you were in a meeting or not, as opposed to they’re true meaning of being connected to the internet or not! Therefore this phrase is particularly annoying.


This is one to definitely look out for, standing as it does for Three Letter Acronym. It is designed to be both ironic as it describes itself, and also to be used by people who think they’re really smart for knowing it. Watch and learn as at several stages in your career someone will pronounce with a smug grin “this organisation is full of TLAs” and then enjoy the consternation it causes amongst some staff. Rectify their smugness by telling them a few choice TLA’s of your own invention.


Another classic phrase that is drummed into you on team building events. These vary from going go-karting together (fun), doing some stupid orienteering challenge in the freezing cold in the Lake District (not fun), or easiest of all down the pub (entertaining and cheap). Yes, number one on the most cringeworthy phrases of all time, the acronym stands for There’s No ‘I’ In Team.


Nowhere does this common acronym apply than in the work place. There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch was probably written to describe work. Firstly, there very rarely is a free lunch as you are forced to eat your soggy sarnies from home, or go out and spend a few quid on a BLT and packet of crisps. But even when there appears to be, there is always a catch - usually in the form of an insufferably boring conference either side of the lunch. Give me my sarnies any day!


Ever had a supplier, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, come up to you and blind you with enthusiasm and science? Whilst trying to plug their product were you impressed by their dedication, self believe and all the work that went into the presentation? Did you feel a little guilty when at the end of it all you said ‘I don’t think that’s what we want at the moment’ and left? Did you feel guilty for saying Thanks but No Thanks?


A truly successful businessman or woman is a TOAD. Perhaps, in more ways than one. To be really successful it seems you need to Take Ownership And Deliver on projects. Too many people drift along and shirk responsibility, or have lots of great ideas but don’t follow through on them to deliver. Bottom line: be successful, be a TOAD.


Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, as someone famous once wrote. And toil and trouble describes most jobs - a hell of a lot of work and a hell of a lot of hassle and stress. And, just once in a while, an enlightened company comes along and rewards you with all the extra hours you put in with TOIL - or Time Off In Lieu.

However, these companies are often few and far between. What you tend to hear is “well, there’s the hours as stated in the contract, and then there’s the hours as stated by your boss” (or words to this effect). Note: when you hear words to this effect, you’re not going to get any TOIL and probably no overtime either. Welcome to Britain.


This one stands for Target Operational Model, and is aspirational in the sense that it’s what your operations would ideally look like. The TOM of the company and the TOM of the individual often conflict. For instance, whilst the TOM of the company is for everyone to work really hard every day delivering great work, your TOM is probably to do as little work as possible whilst getting paid well. And that’s how interesting conflicts can arise. Take on your companies TOM and see who wins! Caution: if it’s not you, you might end up with a lot of spare time to work out where you went wrong.


There are hundreds and hundreds of obscure acronyms used throughout the world of email and texting, including LOL (Laugh Out Loud) or Lots Of Love. But TTFN is one that crossed into the business world, with many people ending their emails with TTFN, standing for Ta Ta For Now. It’s recommended that you don’t use it though, as it will either confuse people, or show you up for being a bit if of a net head. Which apparently isn’t good!


This one is a real classic, and just shows that no lack of imagination or jazzy names can get in the way of acronyms. Big companies will spend millions on the consultants (see CARE) to change their name, but there’s no need for this. All you need is an acronym!

TWAIN stands for Technology Without An Interesting Name and is the standard for scanners. That’s why you may have heard your scanner referred to as a TWAIN compliant device.


Not to be confused with USB, the clever expansion device on your computer to allow you to plug in lots of devices. USP is another one of those marketing/selling acronyms, meaning Unique Selling Point. Everything, the theory goes, needs to have a USP - some compelling reason to buy it, which is different to other competitor products.

Clearly a good theory - we buy alcohol because it relaxes us and makes boring people interesting. We buy a flash car because it makes us feel important. We employ the marketing department because….umm….err…


If you get to WFH, you too could be hassle. This stands for Working From Home. It means that once in a while you can avoid the traffic jams, the office politics, the constant attention of the bosses eyes watching you (when they’re not attending a board meeting) and most importantly you can get up at 8.59 in the morning.

The great thing about WFH’ing is that, once installed in a company’s culture, it can grow and grow. Management are simple souls and as long as the staff work together and openly praise how much more productive they are at home than in the office, the managers will believe the illusion and actively encourage it. It’s Saturday, and your neighbour is no longer cutting his grass or washing his car. Concerned? You needn’t be - he has discovered the happy state that is Working From Home.


This always comes in the form of a question, which is often thought but little uttered. That is, ‘What’s In It For Me?’. Bosses are notoriously uncomfortable with this question, and therefore have worked hard across all businesses to develop a culture where people feel incredibly selfish or guilty if they ask this.

After all, surely the chance to undertake a highly challenging job in a pressurised and time-poor environment is reward enough? Of course it is! That’s why people always want to develop their career by being presented with some great ‘challenges’. But, rest assured, everyone’s always thinking ‘WIIFM’.


This could be used to describe many a marketing campaign, and means Works In Theory (the implication being that the practice was a little far of the mark).

So, whilst the director of the advert really appreciated the fact the advert was an allegorical reference to some obscure historical figure, the watching audience didn’t and hence had no idea what the hell that £2million advert was actually advertising. And that’s a case of WIT.


A generic phrase for someone or something that is useless, meaning Waste Of Space. It is often applied to whole groups of people. For instance HR. Harsh, but perhaps fair!


What’s the F*cking Point - commonly thought but less commonly said, at least without regret. The instances of this being applicable and too numerous to mention. But given that about 50% of business documents produced are never actually read by anyone, whenever you’re asked to write a detailed 100 page report you could legitimately ask WTFP. Most business documents are written in case someone wants to read them, rather than because anyone wants to read them - WTFP!!!


Another one from the world of the web, this stands for What You See Is What You Get, and it is actually pronounced when spoken ‘WHIZZYWIG’ - a little easier than the phonetic version! It’s application is around packages that produce HTML code - whilst HTML is not WYSIWYG, software packages invariably are, as what you type in is what you get on the resultant web page. Make sense?!


No list of acronyms on this theme could be complete without mentioning YUPPIE, one of the most popular acronyms that, like RADAR, is not an acronym at all. It stands for Young Upwardly-mobile Professional, so is really a YUP. But that doesn’t sound quite so interesting.

These days it’s getting harder and harder to be a yuppie. With recent surveys showing people are subjected to ageism if they are younger than 35 or older than 40, and house prices being incredibly prohibitive for young guns, YUPPIEs are not having a great time of it. And if there’s less YUPPIEs in the world, is that necessarily a bad thing? You be the judge.

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