Business Idioms: Office Dialogue

Competing with Corporate Giants

It is very common to use business idioms at the office. We have taken some of the most popular ones and created a dialogue between two co-workers.

Look up any words that you don’t understand in the dictionary (we love linguee).

Then read the dialogue out loud at least 10 times.

Let us know if you have any questions!


It’s 5:30 p.m. and John is getting his things together to head home. On his way out, he spots Terry, looking flustered in a drop-in. He stops briefly to chat with his colleague.
John: Hey Terry. What’s going on? Any plans to leave the office tonight?


Terry: Oh, hi John. To be honest, I think I’ll be here for quite some time. I’m up againsttwo big multi-nationals for this new contract at Cremicor and it’s cut-throat out there. There’sa lot at stake if I come up short at next month’s presentation.


John: Tell me why you’re so worried? You’re on great terms with Cremicor’s project manager and you’ve bent over backwards accommodating their requests.


Terry: That’s all true, but to start these giants are able to undercut me by 50% and are willing to provide a custom made redesign of the prototype. They’ve really got the upper hand here. I’m working 24/7 trying to figure out how we can compete.


John: Geez, I guess you’ve got your work cut out for you. What happens if you don’t land the project?


Terry: If we lose this one, we’re looking at a $250K deficit in this year’s budget.


John: Terry, that would be a tough break. What’s your game plan so far?


Terry: Well, to start I’m having a look at the numbers to see if there’s any way we can bring the price down. I know management is really intent on maintaining high margins, but I have to convince them to look at the big picture. Then, I’m considering to offer Cremicor a long term contract assuring them that the prices won’t change. Finally, I need to get R&D to agree to get back to the drawing board. We have to make sure that we’re able to present them with a ground-breaking idea.


John: Looks like you’re on the right track. But, you’ve got quite a challenge ahead of you getting the buy-ins to support your proposal. And you’ve got no time to lose. Have you already talked with the CTO regarding the development support? Is he on board?


Terry: I’m going to have him on the phone in 20 minutes to talk this whole thing through. It may be a long shot, but I’m going to ask him for another resource to add to the R&D team for this assignment. It’ll be just for a few weeks so that we have enough manpower to come up with a great idea before the meeting.


John: Terry, I have to call it a day but first thing tomorrow we’ll go through the strategy and we’ll find a way to win this one!


Terry: Thanks, John. Your support is critical.





Business Idioms and Vocabulary Definitions


to get one’s things together: arranging one’s belongings in preparation to leave (this could involve shutting down and putting away a laptop, locking files into a drawer, cleaning any coffee cups from the desk, etc.


to head somewhere: to direct oneself toward a specific point or destination


to be on your way out: in the process of leaving an establishment


a drop-in: a business conference room that does not require a reservation to use


to be up against something: something is challenging you


cut-throat: ferocious and unstoppable competition, competitors won’t give up and they don’t care what they need to do to win


a lot at stake: there is a lot to lose


come up short: to do less than what is expected or required


on great terms with someone: to have a good relationship with a person


to bend over backwards: to work very hard to satisfy the needs or desires of another person


giant: a very large, powerful company


undercut: to sell at a lower price


to have the upper hand: to have an advantage


to work 24/7: to work 24 hours a day 7 days a week, to work very long hours


to have your work cut out for you: to have something difficult to accomplish


to land the project: to win, to receive


$250K: $250,000 (K represents thousand)


tough break: bad luck, bad fortune


game plan: a strategy, course of action


to look at the big picture: to have a broad view of the situation and not focus on the details


to get back to the drawing board: to re-start something


ground-breaking: something very original and innovative


on the right track: to be going in the right direction, to be doing something correctly


buy-ins: the agreement and acceptance of people in your idea or approach


no time to lose: when there is a lot of pressure to get something finished as soon as possible


CTO: Chief Technology Officer, an executive level position in charge of a company’s technological strategy


to be on board: to support an idea, willing to participate in something


talk this whole thing through: to discuss something in detail


a long shot: having little chance of success


a resource: an employee in a company


manpower: the quantity of people available for a particular activity


call it a day: stop an activity for that day


The LV Linguistics team loves writing about anything to do with business culture and enjoys finding ways to use this to help readers improve their English skills. In addition to articles related to the corporate world, entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and more, we’re working hard to create and share English vocabulary and grammar exercises that we hope can help you to excel in your language endeavors.


Please let us know if there’s something that you’d like us to write and post! ​

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