What Those Work Phrases Actually Mean
Modern work means tons of needless communication. Whether it's hundreds of not-useful emails, a never-ending stream of Slack or Teams messages, or constant drop-ins, we can suffer from information overload.
Somehow, collectively, we've all learned to speak a special kind of business lingo at work. But what do those passive-aggressive messages really mean? You're almost guaranteed to hear these common workplace phrases every week. So you should know what people are actually trying to say.
We're here to help. Enjoy this humorous look at workspeak, corporate jargon and reading between the lines. Just remember. Context is everything.
I Was Under the Impression That
What you hear: We might have a minor understanding.
What they’re really saying: Are you kidding me with this? Unless I’ve suddenly gone insane, I’m pretty sure I heard what was said the first time. We all agreed we’d do it this way, and I will literally stand here and argue with you until you agree.
As Per My Last Email
What you hear: Hey, pal. Maybe you missed this in my last email, but here's another friendly reminder.
What they're really saying: Look, jerk. If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times in this email thread. Since you won't go back and actually read what I wrote the first 10 times, let me spell it out for you. Again.
What you hear: I could really use your help with this sticky situation.
What they're really saying: You've screwed this up. And now someone else has called me on it, not you. You need to fess up, post-haste and get us out of this mess you made so this person never emails me angry again.
Correct Me If I'm Wrong, But
What you hear: I may be wrong here, and I'd like your opinion.
What they're really saying: I'm not wrong. In fact, I'm 100 percent sure that I'm 100 percent correct. You're the one that is wrong. But since we're in a business setting, and I'm pretty sure I'll get fired for calling you an idiot out loud, I'm going to replace my 100 percent correct statement with this white-collar platitude.
Going Forward, We Should
What you hear: The way you did that is fine, but here is how I think we could do it differently in the future.
What they're really saying: Was this not explained to you in training? Can I fire you? Since this isn't worth fighting over, I'm not going to. But I am going to explain in excruciating detail how I expect, or rather demand, you do this in the future.
This Is Great. I Just Want to Tweak a Couple of Things.
What you hear: You did a good job, I just want to needlessly fuss with your work.
What they're really saying: You did not do a great job. You did an adequate job at best. And now I'm going to redo it. And I'm a little bitter about that, but if I turn my language into business speak, I'll look like the bigger person. That's called rising above it.
I'll Let You Take It From Here.
What you hear: Can you take this project over the finish line?
What they're really saying: Look, I tried to fix this mess, but I'm throwing in the towel. It is four o'clock on a Friday, and I just want to get out of here and not think about you people again for 48 hours. So how about you stay here and get this done and I'll go to happy hour? Great.
What you hear: Hey. Did you forget about this?
What they're really saying: I've already asked you to do this once and now I'm asking again. This time, let's try to acknowledge what I'm saying and get this simple task done. Don't make me hit you with an "as per my last email."
I'm a Little Confused.
What you hear: I'm not sure I understand the situation, mind helping me out?
What they're really saying: I'm not confused at all, but you are. How about you walk me through this step-by-step so I can figure out where you went wrong and let you know?
In Case You Missed This
What you hear: Hey, pal. Did you miss this notice? It is pretty important!
What they're really saying: My dude. I'm pretty sure in 2021, no one misses an email. But since you didn't reply, do what I asked, or acknowledge me in any way, I have no other choice but to come up with some white-collar cliché to try to get your attention.
I'm Sorry, I Probably Wasn't Being Clear.
What you hear: I must have misspoken. Sorry! Let me try to explain it again.
What they're really saying: Maybe if you hadn't interrupted me so many times, you'd have heard what I said. Now I will say it all over again, using slightly different words, and this time, please listen so we can get out of here?
As Previously Discussed
What you hear: There's a lot going on right now, so here is a friendly reminder.
What they're really saying: How many times do I have to explain this to you? Here is a vague reminder of something I explained several email chains ago. You can either try to read between the lines here or search your entire inbox for the first time I brought this up. Doesn't matter to me. I'm not explaining again.
Thanks for Your Feedback!
What you hear: Thanks for taking the time to give me feedback on this.
What they’re really saying: Absolutely zero thanks for that passive-aggressive monologue there, Karen. You know, I don’t actually remember asking if you could critique the work I sent when I sent it. How about you just do your job and I’ll do mine?
Just Circling Back on This
What you hear: Hey, I haven't heard anything on this yet. Have an update?
What they're saying: How long does it take someone to reply to an email? I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that the average worker receives about 150 emails each week. How about you stop dragging down the curve and actually hit reply this time?
Just Wanted to Follow Up Here
What you hear: I know you're busy, so just following up. Would love a reply.
What they're really saying: That's right. I put a read receipt on this email. I know you opened it, read it, and closed it without replying. I'm watching you! Better reply this time.
I'm Balancing a Lot This Week
What you hear: I'm pretty busy right now, but I'd love to help you in the future.
What they're saying: Am I suddenly the only person that works for this company? Why is everyone coming to me with their crap? How about you do your job and I'll do mine and then we can all go home at five?
Let's Put a Pin in That
What you hear: That is an interesting idea. Let's save it so we can properly discuss it at a better time.
What they're really saying: We can pin it to the whiteboard, the trash can, or the moon for all I care. We're definitely never, ever bringing that idea up again.
Should I Forward That Back to You?
What you hear: Do you need another copy of this email?
What they're really saying: I am literally looking right at the email you sent and now claim you can't find. I don't know what rock you've been living under, but since you're not able to work your search bar, would you like me to just forward your own email back to you?
As Per Our Earlier Conversation
What you hear: Here is a follow-up reminder to our conversation this morning.
What they're really saying: Look, I've been on this merry-go-round with you before. I know I already told you this, but I don't trust you when you say that you hear me. So now I'm sitting at my desk, literally writing down what I already said.
I'm a Little Concerned About Scope Creep.
What you hear: I’m worried about the time this project will take.
What they’re really saying: I understood what you asked for, and I’m working on it. But you keep coming in here every five minutes to move the goal post further back. This is my last attempt to reel you back down to reality before I call it quits and spend the rest of the day scrolling Facebook.
Thanks in Advance
What you hear: Good luck getting out of this "favor."
What they're really saying: Good luck getting out of this "favor," sucker. I know I'm technically supposed to be the one doing this, but I put it in an email and hit you with a "thanks" before you could turn me down. Looks like you're stuck now, pal.
Let Me Know If You Have Any Concerns or Questions
What you hear: I'm open to your feedback and happy to explain my reasoning to you.
What they're really saying: If you have any concerns or questions, leave me out of it. This is the way it has got to be, pal. In fact, I'm really not expecting a reply to this email and if you do, I'm very likely to reply back with an "as previously discussed," or maybe even an "I'm sorry, I probably wasn't being clear." We'll just see how I feel when your nonsense hits my inbox.
It's Not About the Money
What you hear: I get more satisfaction from this role than just a paycheck.
What they're really saying: Of course, it is all about the money. Work is always about money. And this amount of money isn't anything to write home about. But I'm hoping if I butter you up now, there will be more money in the future. Because guess what? It is about the money. Literally.
Just Checking In
What you hear: Stopping by to see how that project is going.
What they’re really saying: Look, it is me again! Back to see if you’re bothering to do any work. I can’t leave until you wrap this up, so it would be super if you could close the social media and maybe do something for a living, mmmk?
What you hear: Oh, look, another favor that isn't really a favor.
What they're really saying: Oh, look, another favor that isn't really a favor. Look, man. I get this isn't your job, but I'm so tired of doing this one task over and over. So instead of face another day of drudgery, I'm just going to dump it on your plate and run. Is it a favor? Not really. Will I repay? Highly unlikely I'll even remember you did this.
While I Understand Your Urgency
What you hear: I get that you're stressed, but we can handle this.
What they're really saying: Oh, come on. What could possibly be so pressing that you need to crash into my inbox at 9:02 a.m.? How about I go to the break room to get a coffee and you go away and get a grip? I'll get to it when I get to it.
Just Looking for Some Closure Here
What you hear: Let's wrap this up.
What they're really saying: How long can one simple task possibly drag on? We've been on this email chain for so long the reply bars now look like one solid line, stretching into infinity. I could have told you the solution 18 hours ago, but instead, here I sit. Desperately hoping you wrap this up before someone decides to start a new email chain.
With All Due Respect
What you hear: I'm a bit annoyed right now, but maybe you're not understanding my point.
What they're really saying: I can barely hear my own thoughts over the sound of my internal screams. Who made the rule that we can't verbally assault people in the workplace? If there was ever a time to rip a coworker a new one, this is it.
Could You Provide Some More Details?
What you hear: I’m not sure I understand.
What they’re really saying: I’m not sure what that nonsense you just said even means, but I’m not going to try and decode it, either. How about you explain it again? Hopefully, you’ll hear yourself this time and shut up so we can all move on.