Wednesday, January 30, 2013

This Post Will Teach you Business English (and Maybe Make You More Money!)

Have you ever wondered how much a co-worker was earning? Would you like to be able to click a few buttons to find out? Some companies are now making it possible for employees to see what their co-workers are making. I can hear the office chats now ("Hey, Bill is making $200,000 a year? And he got a $25,000 bonus last year? Are you kidding?").

A Wall Street Journal article discusses this in an article entitled "Psst...This is What Your Co-worker is Paid." Let's read part of the article and then discuss the English idioms, expressions, and words of interest. Vocabulary we'll discuss is in blue.

Office workers have grown accustomed to knowing the intimate details of each other's lives—from a colleague's favorite cat video to a boss's vacation fiasco.
Now a small but growing number of private-sector firms are letting employees in on closely held company secrets: revealing details of company financials, staff performance reviews, even individual pay—and in doing so, walking a tightrope between information and TMI, or too much information.
The warts-and-all approach, most often found in startups, builds trust among workers and makes employees more aware of how their particular contribution affects the company as a whole, advocates say …
Little privacy remains in most offices, and as work becomes more collaborative, a move toward greater openness may be inevitable, even for larger firms. Companies "don't really have a choice," says Ed Lawler, director of the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California ...
But open management can be expensive and time consuming: If any worker's pay is out of line with his or her peers, the firm should be ready to even things up or explain why it's so, says Dr. Lawler. Management should also show employees how to read the company's financial and performance data, he adds.
And because workers can see information normally kept under wraps, they may weigh in on decisions, which can slow things down, company executives say.
Now let's review the vocabulary in this article:

walking a tightrope between - to deal carefully when in a sensitive situation, choosing between two things (often opposing things). "Tightrope" is a rope that acrobats cross in a circus, very carefully.

TMI - this is an acronym that stands for "too much information". It's used when someone is sharing too much personal information (also called "oversharing."). If your boss tells you the details of his date last night and later you are gossiping about him with a co-worker, you might say, "Greg was telling me all about his date with Lisa last night. She didn't leave his apartment until 3 a.m. TMI!"

warts-and-all - there are two definitions: 1) not trying to hide the bad things (this definition applies to this article; and 2) even with the problems or flaws ("I have some issues with my boss, but I love her, warts and all."). This is a very graphic expression because of the "warts" -- those are unattractive growths on one's body. If you love someone warts-and-all, you're able to ignore those unattractive growths.

out of line with - not consistent with; not at the same level as (Note: If your pay is "out of line" with your peers' pay, it's time to make an appointment with the boss!").

(to) keep under wraps - to keep secret. Example: We're going to give Susan a 20% pay increase next month, but let's keep that under wraps for now.

weigh in on - give one's opinion about. Example: Bill is making $200,000 a year. I'd like to weigh in on the decision regarding his salary increase for next year."

I hope you enjoyed this short Business English lesson. If you're looking for more Business English, please check out the book Speak Better Business English and Make More Money. You'll find over 400 useful Business English expressions in it. It's available for Kindle too!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Let's Learn Business English with some Naked Talk!

Welcome to today's Business English lesson. We'll try to keep this English lesson "PG-rated" despite the theme of nudity! Today we're going to learn 12 new English expressions and useful words, and we're going to have a lot of fun while doing it.

In the USA, there's an association for just about every cause or interest. So it was not that surprising to read about the "American Association for Nude Recreation" in the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago. The association is for those who like to vacation with no clothes on -- or, in their lingo, to take a "nakation."

The Wall Street Journal article talks about this association's search for new corporate sponsors. The association's leadership was excited by the many recent products with the word "naked" in them -- such as Naked Pizza (and if you want a beer with that pizza, how about a Naked Lap Lager?!).

So let's sit down, take off your sweater (no need to get completely naked, unless it makes your English learning more effective!), and take a look at parts of this article. The terms we'll take a peek at highlighted in blue.

Extract from "Nudists Seek Corporate Sponsor Looking for Greater Exposure" WSJ article*:

The nation's largest nudist association is looking for corporate sponsors, and leaders think this might be their moment in the sun. Now that the organic food movement has given the word naked a wholesome new meaning—suggesting natural and free of preservatives—the word is popping up in all kinds of product names: Naked Pizza, Bear Naked granola, the Naked Grape Chardonnay and more than one naked lager.

Since October, the group has sent about 100 query letters. They have written to the makers of "naked" products and to companies selling items their members use a lot, such as Hawaiian Tropic and BullFrog sunscreens. And they have also targeted companies they think should be interested because their advertising has gone au naturel in a fun or artful way...

"We're hoping we'll give the association greater exposure," says the association's Executive Director Jim Smock, adding a difficult to believe, "no pun intended."

The response has been skimpy. So far, he has received three letters of regret, and a case of E. & J. Gallo Winery's Naked Grape wine …

Nevertheless, the group faces a significant hurdle. Though the 82-year-old organization has made strides in gaining social acceptance and legal protections, many people still find nudism off-putting.

Wooing major brands could be a heavy lift, given the risk of backlash and the association's relatively small membership, branding experts say.

Their advice: The association should first give itself a face-lift, a sleeker website, a revamped logo and maybe a stripped-down name.

Now let's look at some definitions:

moment in the sun - getting some attention, usually for a very short time (Note: this often refers to a person, usually not a well-known one, finally getting a little bit of attention).

(to) pop up - to appear, often unexpectedly. In this case, the word "naked" is suddenly appearing -- or popping up -- in all kinds of brand names. Obviously, marketers have realized that "naked" is a powerful selling word, at least for now.

(to) give one greater exposure - to get more attention in the media or among the public (Note: this is a pun because "exposure" has a second meaning -- the act of showing a body part, typically one that is not supposed to be shown in public!).

skimpy - small in quantity. This also has another definition, which is where the pun is here: skimpy also means lacking in fullness (when said of clothes, it means there is not enough of the clothing to fully cover the body part in question -- so a skimpy skirt, for example, might be tight and very short).

(to) face a hurdle - meet a challenge or something that blocks success

(to) make strides - to make progress

off-putting - something that causes feelings of unease, disgust, or annoyance (Note: from the phrasal verb "to put off" meaning to annoy, disgust, or repel someone)

to woo - to try to get the favor of; to attract 

heavy lift - a difficult task

give oneself a face-lift - to improve one's image or look

revamped - made newer and better; improved

stripped-down  - shorter; more simple; spare (Note: this is another pun, playing off the word "stripped" meaning naked)

If you would like to learn more business English idioms, check out the popular book & CD "Speak Business English Like an American" available from Language Success Press. It's also available in app format for iPad and iPhone under the names Speak Business English I and Speak Business English II.

*"Nudists Seek Corporate Sponsor Looking for Greater Exposure" is © 2013 by the WSJ and is reproduced here in part for educational purposes.