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Workplace Glossary – Business Buzz

No matter which industry you work in or what your major was in college, our workplace glossary covers some basic business buzz words every employee should know.


The hearing and settling of workplace disputes and disagreements, without going to trial. Both parties agree to make their case in front of an impartial party called an Arbitrator. The arbitration process is usually agreed to ahead of time in a company policy or a labor contract.

Breakeven point

This is the point at which the cost to do something is equal to the income you receive from doing that thing. This is important to companies, because this is the point where company will declare a profit or a loss.

Best Practice

A way of doing something that is generally believed to deliver the best outcomes in a particular job, industry or profession.


Brainstorming is the practice of coming up with new ideas. You can brainstorm by yourself or in a group. You could also hear the expression “brainstorming session” where a group or team gets together to come up with ideas to solve an existing problem or develop a new initiative. Typically lot of ideas are put on the table for discussion in a brainstorming session.

Business Case

You might hear the expression “making a business case” for doing one thing versus another thing. This would be the same as saying “finding the rationale” behind a specific business decision. Employers expect workers to understand the business rationale behind the company’s decisions. Companies want to know that employees understand that changes in activities will have an impact on the profit or success of the business.


These are specific standards that guide activity in your industry.  Benchmarks are a point of reference that others in the industry will use to evaluate output.

Conflict of Interest

This will exist where you have a personal (could be financial or professional) interest which could impact or influence how you conduct business on behalf of your employer. This personal interest might impact your ability to be fair and impartial as you conduct business on behalf of your organization. Some employees could be asked to sign disclosure statements, where they declare any financial interest in competitors or vendors.


This is a term used to describe the members of an executive leadership team. For example, CEO is a Chief Executive Officer; COO is a Chief Operations Officer; CFO is Chief Financial Officer and CHRO is a Chief Human Resources Officer.

Competitive advantage

This is a factor that causes one company to have a superior position over another. As a result of this factor, the company will usually have a higher profit margin than their competitors. This competitive advantage will distinguish one company over the other in the mind of the consumer.

Collective Bargaining

Method whereby representatives of employees (unions) and employers negotiate the conditions of employment, normally resulting in a written contract (called a collective bargaining agreement) setting forth the wages, hours, and other conditions to be observed for a stipulated period (e.g., 3 years). The term also applies to union-management dealings during the term of the agreement. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Change Leadership

The act of leading an organization through changes.  It’s a popular term used to maybe evaluate leaders and executives on their ability to guide an organizations’ employees through changes within the organization.


When a company permanently reduces the size of it’s workforce.

Diversity and Inclusion

Workplace diversity is a major initiative for most organizations.  This is a popular expression you will hear from HR officers and executive management and refers to their aim to recruit and retain employees from diverse backgrounds.

Emotional intelligence

The ability that one has to manage one’s own feelings and emotions or understand the feelings and emotions of others. You will hear people refer to “IQ” and “EQ” where IQ is Intelligence Quotient and EQ is Emotional Quotient. Just as a higher IQ is supposed to indicate higher level of intelligence, it is the same with EQ. The higher one’s EQ the more able one is supposed to be at managing emotions.

Employee Engagement

Common buzz phrase to describe the level to which employees are involved with their work. Companies believe that the more engaged an employee is in the company, the greater the company’s competitive advantage.

Employee Turnover

Companies put a lot of time and money into measuring things like the average length of time someone works for them, the cost of hiring a new employee, the length of time it takes to hire, the diversity of their workforce and workforce demographics. Employee turnover is one of those things that employers measure as well. It is a ratio of the number of workers that had to be replaced during a given time period to the average number of workers employed during that time.

Employee Productivity

This refers to the rate at which employees produce product or services.  The rate at which the company will ultimately meet goals.

Human Resources

This is the functional area of an organization that oversees processes like recruiting, training, organizational structure, benefits, job classification, compensation, employee relations, labor relations, payroll, performance management and policy development. There is more, but those are some of the functions through which employees interact with Human Resources daily.


A private negotiation and decision-making process in which a mediator assists individuals or groups in finding a resolution to a particular issue or conflict. Companies like mediation because it is a relatively inexpensive way to resolve disputes between peers or between a supervisor and a staff member. Mediators may be another employee in the same company or an external consultant.

Mission and Vision Statement

Usually published well crafted statements dictating the general principles that will guide company operations.  A vision statement has a focus more aligned to the future of the company.

Office Politics

You might also hear the phrase “workplace politics” or “organizational politics” and they all mean the same thing. At the core, office politics is about the informal distribution of power among employees in the office. Who does what? Who can get what done? Who supports who? Office politics often is the basis for Every employee, regardless of their level, will at some point be impacted, if not influenced by office politics.

Organizational Behavior

The human behavior of the employees collectively has an impact on the way the organization itself operates and functions.

Rank and file

Typically this term is used in reference to the body of people who work within the organization. It usually refers to the non-management or non-supervisory staff.

Succession Planning

Succession planning is a process that focuses on sustainability of the organization. The plan aims to develop potential leaders to fill future leadership positions within the company.

Social Responsibility

This is a company’s sense of responsibility towards the larger community and the environment. To demonstrate social responsibility, for example, a company in the business of drilling for oil could choose to contribute resources to environmental research, land preservation or other safety initiatives to protect citizens. Companies contribute this way because they believe it is good to give back to the larger community and also because it helps to promote a positive brand.

Strategic Plan

The plans that includes the company’s longer term plans.  Each department and employee orients their work and productivity to meet the requirements of the company’s strategic plan.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic within a defined Time frame.

Workplace Diversity

This is a term you will hear often since workplace diversity is a major goal for most large organizations that want to hire a cross section of employees with all types of backgrounds. Diversity is not just about race in the workforce. It is also about age, gender, ethnicity, cultural backgrounds, religion, sexual orientation and disability status.

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