Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Workplace "Whiner" - and Some Useful Business English

Back in June, this blog featured a post called, A SHORT FIELD GUIDE TO AMERICAN WORKERS (PART ONE). Read it below. This post examines another type of worker -- the workplace whiner. What's a whiner? It's someone who complains a lot. Perhaps you have one of these in your office? Hint: It's the person who is never quite satisfied. For example, let's say your company was throwing a holiday party in a very nice restaurant. The whiner would be the one to point out that the place is too noisy. Or let's say you work in an office where the refrigerator is slow to be cleaned out. The whiner is the one who goes around complaining about how dirty it is (typically without offering to clean it out himself or herself).

The Wall Street Journal ran an article recently called "What to Do With A Workplace Whiner." Let's read some of that article and then discuss the expressions and terms used (these are in bold below). Add these expressions to your business English vocabulary. They are sure to come in handy!

It's one of the diciest challenges of office politics, one that invades the cubicle farm and executive suite alike: How to deal with workplace whiners. While it's often best to walk away, that can be difficult in today's team-based workplace, where many people work closely in groups. 
Trying to stay neutral by just listening and nodding can also backfire, says Dana Brownlee, founder of Professionalism Matters, a corporate-training firm in Atlanta. "Before you know it, there's another version of the story circulating, saying you were the one saying something negative about the VP. And they're talking about you over by the Coke machine."
And it can be tough to object without seeming self-righteous. "If you approach someone about their complaining, they may take it in a completely wrong way, and then you've alienated them," says Jon Gordon, an author, consultant and founder of a Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., training firm. It's better to try to bond with co-workers, while setting an example by not griping yourself, he says.
When Kris Whitehead joined a new employer several years ago, his colleagues' frequent work complaints "had a direct impact on my ability to sell," says the Nashua, N.H., salesman. With the economy in a slump, "I had the same secret fears" of failure being voiced by co-workers, he says. Staying upbeat "was an extremely arduous task."

Here we go with our vocabulary study:
dicey - risky; unpredictable. Example: Starting a business during a recession can be dicey.

office politics - the little games people in offices play to try to get ahead (get more money, get a promotion, get a better job, get more power, get better treatment, etc). 

cubicle farm - an office with cubicles (note: this term has a negative feel to it). This is often shortened to cube farm.

backfire - to bring about the opposite result of what was intended. Example: Our complaints about having the holiday party at our boss' house backfired. Instead of holding the party at a restaurant instead, the company just canceled the party.

self-righteous - always sure that one is right (and often being intolerant of others' points of view). This is definitely NOT something you want to be called!

(to) take something the wrong way - to understand or interpret something as insulting; to be offended by what someone says (often because you are not understanding it as the speaker intended). Example: Don't take this the wrong way, but I think it's time you start looking for another job.

(to) alienate - to make others hostile towards you; to push others from you by things you say or do. Example: Joe has alienated his entire staff with his bossy behavior.

(to) gripe - to complain; to whine (note: this term has been around for centuries -- it comes from the Old English term: gripan). Example: Please stop griping about working long hours. Everybody else is also working hard these days. 

in a slump - a slow period; a recession (Note: this has a second meaning -- when one is feeling down or depressed, you can say he's or she's in a slump).  

(to) stay upbeat - to remain positive. Example: Sales have been slow lately, but we're trying to stay update.

arduous - difficult; hard to achieve

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Back to School with some Business English

Whew, I can't believe summer is over and we're now in the back-to-school season! To celebrate that, I chose an article today called "Getting into B-School On Your Boss's Dime" from the Wall Street Journal. We'll learn some new business English words and expressions -- and who knows? -- maybe this post will even inspire you to go back to school. MBA anyone? Why not, if someone else is paying ...

Here we go with the part of the article we will analyze. Target vocabulary is in bold:

Getting into B-School On Your Boss's Dime

Companies are advertising a rather peculiar perk to lure top undergraduate talent: Showing them the door—to graduate school, that is.

As a means of attracting stellar young hires, an increasing number of firms in finance, consulting and technology are shepherding employees through the graduate-school admissions process by organizing and paying for test-preparation courses, inviting admissions consultants to help with applications, arranging mock interviews with senior staffers and even bringing school representatives to information sessions at the office...

It may seem counterintuitive to encourage employees to head for the exits, but firms say that assisting with the graduate-school application process leads to long-term loyalty and, with strings attached to tuition money, improves the chances that employees will return after graduation...

Such programs have been in place for a while, but have grown more popular in recent years as the recruiting process heats up.
Here we go with explanations of the vocabulary in bold:

on one's dime - paid for by someone else (usually by one's employer). Example: We all went out for sushi today, on the company's dime.

perk - a benefit given to employees (such as bonus money, a gym membership, free tuition for school, etc).

(to) lure - to attract (note: this is one of the verbs featured in our ESL app "Business English Power Verbs" available on iTunes for iPad and iPhone - check it out here.

(to) show someone the door - to fire an employee or to encourage an employee to leave the company (in this article, this expression is used with a twist - not firing an employee but rather encouraging them to go in the door of graduate school (so here we have a play on words)

stellar - excellent; the best

staffers - people who work at a company (note: a cooler way of saying "employees")

(to) head for the exits - to leave (often employees will "head for the exits" if there is a problem with the company). Note that the verb "to head" on its own means to leave for a destination, as in: "It's 5 o'clock? I'd better head home now."

with string attached - with conditions (note: you will more often here the expression "with no strings attached" meaning an offer or deal with no hidden conditions)

(to) heat up - to become more intense or active

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