Office Cliches: An Illustrated Guide

Guest Blog Post from Neoman (

We’ve all encountered office speak that crops up a bit too often and doesn’t make much sense. In fact, that’s precisely what makes it so humorous. With these literal illustrations, we guarantee you’ll see these old office clichés in a brand new light.



Low-hanging fruit

Grabbing the low-hanging fruit in a vineyard is a straightforward proposition. At work, that proverbial “fruit” represents the easiest or most obvious tasks. Unless your office really does have fruit hanging from the ceiling, in which case we envy you.


Run it up the flagpole

Otherwise known as “tell people about it.” Sometimes, though, it’s not enough to merely communicate something to people; instead, one must figuratively run it up a flagpole so that people can salute.


Peel back the layers of the onion

Everyone knows that onions have multiple layers. So what do you gain from metaphorically peeling them back at work? A systematic, thorough investigation of a problem. One layer at a time.


Square the circle

Referring to a problem in ancient geography, squaring the circle effectively requires one to carry out the impossible. Get ready, because this project might just require a miracle!


Reinvent the wheel

There is a kind of logic underlying this expression. Reinventing the wheel and improving on it would be a pretty tough gig, and sometimes it’s best to keep things simple. You know what they say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


Break down silos

What exactly are silos? And how do you break them down? When told this, don’t break into a farm and smash up its grain storage system. Instead, reflect on the atomized organisational structure of your office and resolve to build some more joined-up processes. In short, talk to people more.


Pushing the envelope

Sounds like an easy task since envelopes are quite light and easy to push, right? Unfortunately, nothing is ever that simple in the office. This one requires you to extend the apparent limits of performance.


Ducks in a row

Ducks are orderly creatures and simply adore swimming in a row. So when asked to put ducks in a row in the office, you are being asked to organise things generally in order to create an orderly appearance. Like ducks swimming in a row.


Play hardball

Playing hardball is so much more challenging than playing softball. The ball is smaller and harder, and it gets thrown at you faster. So the idea of playing hardball is that you drive a harder bargain and negotiate more forcefully than someone who is playing softball.


Keep me in the loop

This phrase assumes there is a loop in your office, which means the silos must already have been broken down effectively. Once you’ve established a loop, make sure you keep people in it. Particularly important people who tell you to keep them in the loop.


So the next time you’re told that you need to play hardball on this one, get your ducks in a row and run it up the flagpole ASAP, you won’t need to stand there looking bemused. Imagine the phrase in a literal sense, have a good chuckle and then get down to business!

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