English idioms are an important part of everyday communication, especially at work. They can be used at any given time, in both written and spoken English. Some idioms may not make sense literally, and it would be beneficial to familiarise yourself with the meaning and usage of each idiom. The best part of learning and utilising idioms is that it is not a chore, it is actually enjoyable! You can also have fun comparing English idioms with idioms in other languages your are familiar with. None of the idioms listed below are unusual or old-fashioned, so you can confidently express yourself using them in the workplace!
1. Let’s keep this brief: A general idea of what is happening
Usage: I only have a few minutes to talk on the phone; just give me a helicopter view of the work progress.
2. To brainstorm: To come up with a bunch of ideas
Usage: We all need to brainstorm to decide which is the best option.
3. Kick the puppy: To do something unpleasant
Usage: The team looked at her as if she had kicked a puppy when she suggested that they stay after hours.
4. Blue-sky thinking: Ideas and thoughts that are not commonly acceptable.
Usage: That kind of blue-sky thinking can lead to some great advances ahead of our time.
5. Ballpark figure: A rough estimate
Usage: If you don’t have the exact figure, just provide me with a ballpark figure.
6. By the book: To do something by law or rule
Usage: You are advised to do things by the book for safe measure.
7. 24/7:24 hours a day, seven day a week
Usage: She had been working for 24/7 due to her massive workload.
8. Long shot: A low likelihood of something happening, with a slight chance of success
Usage: We have to convince our client by this week, even if it’s a long shot.
9. Off the top of one’s head: To know immediately, spontaneously, without much thought
Usage: I need more time for research because I don’t have any ideas off the top of my head
10. The ball’s in your court: To have the responsibility or to take action, or someone else’s turn to make a move.
Usage: The employees have initiated the conversation and the ball is now is his court if he wants to consider their proposal.
11. In the red: To be in debt
Usage: We will be in red for weeks if we fail to get this deal sealed.
12. Ramp up: To increase in volume or rate
Usage: Everyone need to ramp up their productivity in order to meet their work quota.
13. Learning curve: The rate of gaining experience or new skills
Usage: We welcome fresh graduates, but there will be a steep learning curve.
14. Have a lot on my plate: A lot going on in life at the moment
Usage: As of last week, I have a lot on my plate since my colleague has gone on maternity leave.
15. Crunch the numbers: To compile and analyze the data
Usage: You need to start crunching the numbers to make sure this a viable solution.
16. Fine print: Details of a contract that are usually overlooked
Usage: Remember to review the fine print before handing over the contract.
17. Glass ceiling: A metaphorical barrier preventing advancement to a higher position
Usage: There is a glass ceiling in the tech industry because not many women get to hold prominent positions in the field.
18. Slack off: To work lazily
Usage: How are you going to get things completed, if you are constantly slacking off?
19. Call the shots: To make the major decisions
Usage: She’s the one who calls the shots, we are just following orders.
20. The bottom line: The most important part
Usage: It may not be the best solution, but the bottom line is that it’s just a temporary and quick fix.
21. To be in the dark: To not know about something, in the state of ignorance
Usage: The management tried to keep the situation under wraps, hence the team were kept in the dark for weeks.
22. See eye to eye: To agree on a matter
Usage: We may not see eye to eye on other matters, but we will still get things done when it comes to work.
23. Have your work cut out: To have something very difficult to do
Usage: He knew he had his work cut out for him when he saw the stack of weekly reports that needed reviewing.
24. Small talk: A discussion about everyday topics, with a sense of politeness or as a social obligation
Usage: She likes to make small talk about everybody’s weekend activities while waiting for the meeting to start.
25. Get your foot in the door: To enter an organisation or an industry
Usage: This internship is a great way to get a foot in the door at this company.
26. Piece of cake: Simple to accomplish, no problem
Usage: You don’t have to worry about it, this will be a piece of cake for you since you are the best person for the job.
27. Rock the boat: To disturb a situation
Usage: Things are going very well at the department, an unnecessary addition might rock the boat.
28. Cut to the chase: To get to the point without wasting time
Usage: Stop giving excuses, just cut to the chase!
29. Hit the nail on the head: To find exactly the right answer, describing something accurately
Usage: When they exceeded the estimated completion time, they realized that their supervisor hit the nail on the head when she said that the project timeline wasn’t feasible.
30. Back to square one: Back to the beginning
Usage: If we miss this opportunity, it’ll be back to square one for us.
31. Raise the bar: To raise standards or expectations
Usage:He truly raised the bar with his impressive achievements as Employee of the Month.
32. Stay on your toes: To stay alert, be aware of the situations
Usage: Stay on your toes, I expect there will be inspections later today.
33. Miss the mark: To fail to achieve an intended goal, be mistaken or incorrect about something
Usage: The event is meant to be a bonding activity for the team, but it clearly missed the mark since everyone left early.
34. Throw in the towel: To quit or accept failure
Usage: Most people would throw in the towel upon receiving negative criticism, but not her, she is determined to work harder.
35. Jump the gun: To do something early or before the right time
Usage: Conduct a proper study and slowly come to a conclusion instead of jumping the gun and making abrupt decisions.
36. Out on a limb: To do or say something risky
Usage: Despite the consequences, he went out on a limb to defend his rights.
37. On the same page: To have a shared understanding with others
Usage: Just to ensure we are all on the same page, it is best to stick with the current plan, right?
38. Think outside the box: To go beyond a normal idea
Usage: Instead of referring to the contemporary solutions, you need to start to think outside the box.
39. Change of pace: To go beyond a normal idea, different routine or activity
Usage: Working in a different field is a nice change of pace compared to my previous jobs.
40. Burn the midnight oil: To consistently work beyond normal business hours
Usage: Sometimes you just have to burn the midnight oil for a last-minute job request.
41. For the long haul: A long period of time
Usage: If you are in this for the long haul, I suggest you to put in more effort in refining your skillset.
42. Back to the drawing board: To start again after a plan or idea was not successful
Usage: Since our initial proposal was declined, it’s back to the drawing board.
43. On the back burner: Low priority
Usage: I suggest putting you current task on the back burner and focus on the new project.
44. Up to speed: To be familiar with current information
Usage: We need to get you up to speed before we can start delegating the tasks for the whole team.
45. Get the ball rolling: To get started
Usage: Let’s get the ball rolling and see who wants to pitch their ideas first.
Suggestion: Who wants to pitch their ideas so we can get this ball rolling?
46. It’s not rocket science: Something is not complicated to understand
Usage: This is not rocket science, I believe you can do it without me spoon-feeding every little detail.
47. Cut corners: To do something the easiest or quickest way
Usage: I advise you to not cut any corners and make sure everything is up to par.
48. Break a leg: Good luck, best wishes
Usage: There is an important meeting tomorrow? Break a leg!
49. Under the weather: Having a hangover, feeling ill or sick.
Usage: I am currently under the weather, hence I will not be coming in for work today.
50. A blessing in disguise: Misfortune which turn out to have advantages, good outcome from a bad situation
Usage: Failing the job interview was a blessing in disguise, for she realised that the position
was not suited for her in the first place and she just landed on a more suitable job.
What are your most frequent English idioms that you used at work? Leave us your thoughts on the comment sections below. Head over to Jobstore.com and unveil your next job opportunity.
You Jing is a content writer who writes career and lifestyle contents to inspire job seekers and employers alike on their journey to work-life balance, empowerment and transformation in their career path.
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