There are a wide variety of idioms, jargons, and technicalities in the business world. HR has its own jargon from abandonment rates to 401(k) plan. We have also discussed some HR technical terms, HR audit jargons, and HR metrics in our previous articles. Now, we will review the professional idioms that professionals often use in the business environment. Learning and understanding these idioms can help you become professional when dealing with executives or C-levels leaders.
Without further ado, here is a variety of complimentary and negative idioms to describe people in business.
- Angel investor = a rich person who invests money or provides financial backing to help an entrepreneur or start-up business.
- Blue-eyed boy = a favorite male employee who is liked very much and treated very well by people in authority.
- Cash cow = a product or service that brings in a regular source of income.
- Eager beaver = a very hard-working, enthusiastic employee.
- Eagle eyes = a person who has eagle eyes can see or notice details very well.
- Gift of the gab = someone who has the gift of the gab can speak easily, confidently, and well.
- Go-getter = someone with a lot of energy, drive, and motivation.
- Jack of all trades = a person who can do many different things.
- Made of money = a rich, wealthy person with a lot of money and/or assets.
- Man of his word / women of his word = a reliable, trustworthy person who does what he/she promises to do.
- Mover and shaker = a person who has a lot of influence in a company and gets a lot of good things done.
- Smart cookie = an intelligent person who is able to handle difficult situations.
- Top dog = a person who has a lot of power, influence, and success, especially after a tough competition.
- Whiz kid = a person who has a lot of power, influence, and success, especially after a tough competition.
- Big fish in a small pond = a person who has a high-level, important position in a small group, company, or organisation.
- Bigwig = an important, influential person in a group, company, or organisation.
- Blue-collar worker = an employee who works with his hands or does manual labor; traditionally, such employees used to wear blue uniforms and worked in trade occupations; examples include construction workers, plumbers, electricians, and mechanics.
- Company man = a person who supports company policies, even over the interests of fellow employees.
- Dark house = a secretive person who has qualities and talents people do not know about; also someone who competes in a competition or election and is not expected to win.
- Head honcho = the top person in an organisation; someone with a lot of authority or influence.
- Major player = a large, important and/or influential person, group, or company in a particular field or market.
- Up-and-coming / up-and-comer = someone who is steadily becoming more successful.
- Onwards and upwards = to becoming increasingly successful; continuing to advance or make progress.
- Number cruncher = a person who works with numbers, statistics, or financial information, and is comfortable and skilled at doing so.
- People person = a warm, friendly person who is good at working with others and communicates well with them.
- Salt of the earth = describes a good person who is simple, reliable, and trustworthy; can also be negative because it implies the person is not sophisticated.
- Silent partner = a person who invests money in a business but does not participate in the daily operation of the business.
- Voice in the wilderness = a person who warns people about something that others do not take seriously.
- Whistleblower = a person who exposes improper, illegal, immoral, or corrupt practices in a group, company, or organisation by informing the authorities, police, public, or media.
- White-collar worker = an employee who works at an office job; traditionally, such employees wore white shirts; examples include accountants, executives, and bankers.
See also: What Does a Digital Future for HR Look Like?
- Armchair critic = a theoretical person who criticizes the way others handle problems or issues, without trying to do anything to solve the problem himself/herself.
- Quiet as a mouse = describes someone who doesn’t make any noise; a very quiet person.
- Poker face = a person who has a poker face (not “is a poker face”) does not show or reveal any emotion
- Ambulance chaser = a lawyer who specializes in personal injury claims against large companies.
- Bean counter = an accountant.
- Cog in a machine = a person who is or feels like he/she has a small, unimportant job in a large organisation or company.
- Can’t hold a candle to someone = someone who is far inferior to the other person.
- Dead duck = a person, thing, or project that is sure to fail because of a big mistake; someone or something for which there is no hope.
- Dead wood / dead weight = people in a group, company, or organisation that are not useful, needed, or productive anymore, and need to be dismissed.
- Fast talker = a confident person who can persuade others to do something dishonest because of his/her ability to speak well; someone who can get others to believe something that is not true.
- Fuddy-duddy = an old-fashioned person who has not learned modern behaviour or thinking.
- Know-it-all = an irritating person who acts as if he/she knows everything; someone who acts as if he/she is very smart and clever, but in a boastful way; same as a smart alec and wise guy.
- Lame duck = a person, group, or organisation that is weak or unsuccessful; also an elected leader who does not have much time left in office.
- Loan shark = a dangerous person who lends money to desperate people at very high interest rates and may threaten violence if the money is not repaid.
- Pain in the neck / pain in the ass = a difficult, unpleasant, or annoying person.
- Pen pusher / pencil pusher = an employee or clerk with a “boring” job, who handles a lot of paperwork.
- Rotten apple = a dishonest, corrupt person who has a negative influence on his/her colleagues; someone who usually causes problems for the management, organisation, or company.
- Smart alec / smart aleck = an irritating person who acts as if he/she knows everything; someone who acts as if he/she is very smart and clever, but in a boastful way; same as wise guy and know-it-all
- Stool pigeon = a police informer.
- Sitting duck = a person who is an easy victim, open to attack, influence, or deception because of his/her weaknesses.
- Stick-in-the-mud = someone who prevents other people from having fun; same as a wet blanket.
- Sticker for the rulers = a person who insists on following rules and regulations exactly.
- Wet blanket = someone who prevents other people from having fun; same as a stick-in-the-mud.
- Wise guy = an irritating person who acts as if he/she knows everything; someone who acts as if he/she is very smart and clever, but in a boastful way; same as smart alec, and know-it-all.
- Wolf in sheep’s clothing = a dangerous person who seems to be harmless.
- Hot head = someone who gets angry easily.
- Laughing stock = to be laughing stock means to be someone many people make fun of.
- Set in one’s ways = someone set in their ways is not easily persuaded to change or consider other ideas.
- Yes man = someone who always agrees with his/her superiors, mainly in order to gain their approval, even if he/she does not accept their ideas or practices.
Are there other idioms we haven’t listed? Feel free to send the list and connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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