Work Idioms

Work idioms are a common feature of the English language, and they are used to describe various aspects of work life. These idioms are often used to express complex ideas in a concise and memorable way. They are also a great way to add some humor to the workplace, and they can help to build camaraderie among colleagues. In this page, we will explore some of the most commonly used work idioms in English.

What Are Work Idioms?

Work idioms are common expressions used in the workplace that convey a figurative meaning different from their literal interpretation. These idioms are an essential part of the English language and are frequently used in business and professional conversations.

35 Work Idioms in English: Common Phrases Used

Using work idioms can make your language more colorful and engaging, and can help you better express your ideas and emotions in the workplace. They can also help you better understand the nuances of English and improve your overall communication skills.

Some common work idioms include “putting your nose to the grindstone,” which means working hard and diligently, and “thinking outside the box,” which means thinking creatively and innovatively. Other examples include “climbing the corporate ladder,” “going the extra mile,” and “the ball is in your court.”

List of Work Idioms With Meanings and Examples

Idioms Meaning and Example
Back to the drawing board Starting over again with a new idea or plan.

Example: “Our proposal was rejected, so it’s back to the drawing board.”

Crack the whip To push someone to work harder.

Example: “The manager had to crack the whip to meet the project deadline.”

Get down to business To start working seriously on something.

Example: “Let’s stop chatting and get down to business.”

Go the extra mile To do more than what is expected.

Example: “She goes the extra mile to ensure her clients are happy.”

In the driver’s seat In control of a situation.

Example: “Now that he’s been promoted, he’s really in the driver’s seat at work.”

Keep one’s nose to the grindstone To work hard and continuously.

Example: “She keeps her nose to the grindstone and produces excellent results.”

On the same page Having the same understanding or knowledge.

Example: “Before we proceed, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.”

Pull one’s weight To do one’s fair share of work.

Example: “Everyone needs to pull their weight for the project to succeed.”

Raise the bar To set a higher standard.

Example: “This innovation will raise the bar for the entire industry.”

Run-of-the-mill Average, ordinary, not special.

Example: “We need to improve our product; it’s too run-of-the-mill right now.”

Take the bull by the horns To confront a problem directly.

Example: “He took the bull by the horns and dealt with the issue head-on.”

Think outside the box To think creatively, without adhering to conventional thinking.

Example: “We need to think outside the box to solve this problem.”

Up to speed Fully informed or up to date.

Example: “I need to get up to speed with the latest developments in the project.”

Work against the clock To be in a hurry to do something before a particular time.

Example: “We were working against the clock to finish the report.”

A hard nut to crack A difficult problem to solve or a tough person to deal with.

Example: “The new client is a hard nut to crack, but I’m sure we’ll impress them.”

Burn the midnight oil To work late into the night.

Example: “We had to burn the midnight oil to get the project done on time.”

Climb the corporate ladder To advance in a company’s hierarchy.

Example: “She’s ambitious and eager to climb the corporate ladder.”

Cut corners To do something in the easiest or most inexpensive way, often sacrificing quality.

Example: “We can’t cut corners if we want to produce a high-quality product.”

Down to the wire Something that ends at the last minute or last few seconds.

Example: “The team completed the project right down to the wire.”

Face the music To accept the consequences of one’s actions.

Example: “After making a costly error, he had to face the music.

Hit the ground running To start something and proceed at a fast pace with enthusiasm.

Example: “After her vacation, she hit the ground running with the new campaign.”

In a dead-end job A job that does not have any prospects of promotion or advancement.

Example: “He’s looking for a new position because he feels he’s in a dead-end job.”

Jump on the bandwagon To join others in doing something that has become fashionable or profitable.

Example: “After seeing the success of the product, other companies quickly jumped on the bandwagon.”

Learn the ropes To learn how to do a particular job or activity.

Example: “The first week on the job was spent learning the ropes.”

No room to swing a cat An expression that means there is not a lot of space.

Example: “The new office is so small, there’s no room to swing a cat.”

Work Idioms by Topics

Business Idioms

Cutting corners:

  • This idiom is often used to describe a situation where someone takes shortcuts or tries to save time by doing something quickly and without paying attention to the details.
  • For example, “We can’t cut corners on this project if we want it to be successful.”

Thinking outside the box:

  • This idiom is used to describe a situation where someone comes up with a creative or innovative solution to a problem.
  • For example, “We need to think outside the box if we want to come up with a new marketing strategy.”

Playing hardball:

  • This idiom is used to describe a situation where someone is being tough or aggressive in negotiations or business dealings.
  • For example, “We need to be prepared to play hardball if we want to get the best deal.”

Putting all your eggs in one basket:

  • This idiom is used to describe a situation where someone is relying on one thing to be successful, and if it fails, they will lose everything.
  • For example, “We need to diversify our investments so we’re not putting all our eggs in one basket.”

Going the extra mile:

  • This idiom is used to describe a situation where someone is putting in more effort than is expected or required.
  • For example, “We need to go the extra mile if we want to impress our clients and win their business.”

Explore more: Business Idioms

Workplace Idioms

Put in the hours:

  • This idiom means to work hard and for a long time.
  • For example, “If we want to get this project done on time, we’ll have to put in the hours.”

Wear many hats:

  • This idiom means to have many different responsibilities or roles.
  • For example, “As a small business owner, I have to wear many hats including accountant, marketer, and customer service representative.”

Get the ball rolling:

  • This idiom means to start a project or process.
  • For example, “Let’s get the ball rolling on this new initiative and see where it takes us.”

Hit the ground running:

  • This idiom means to start a new job or project with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.
  • For example, “I’m excited to hit the ground running in my new position and make a positive impact on the company.”

Throw someone under the bus:

  • This idiom means to sacrifice someone else’s interests for one’s own gain.
  • For example, “When the project failed, Mike threw his co-worker under the bus to avoid blame.”

Teamwork Idioms

Pull your weight:

  • This means to do your fair share of work in a team.
  • For example, “We all need to pull our weight if we want to meet our deadlines.”

All hands on deck:

  • This is a phrase used to indicate that everyone is needed to help with a task or project.
  • For example, “When we have a big project coming up, we need all hands on deck to get it done on time.”

In the same boat:

  • This means that we are all in the same situation together.
  • For example, “If we’re struggling with a difficult client, we can remind each other that we’re in the same boat and need to work together to find a solution.”

On the same page:

  • This phrase means that everyone is in agreement and has the same understanding of a situation.
  • For example, “We need to make sure we’re all on the same page before we start the project.”

Team player:

  • This is a term used to describe someone who works well with others and is committed to the success of the team.
  • For example, “We need team players who are willing to collaborate and support each other.”

Success and Failure Idioms

Hit the ground running:

  • This idiom means to start a new job or project with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.
  • For example, “We need to hit the ground running if we’re going to meet our deadline.”

Knock it out of the park:

  • This idiom means to do something exceptionally well.
  • For example, “Everyone was nervous about how the presentation would be received, but Sarah knocked it out of the park with her engaging delivery and clear visuals.”

Fall behind:

  • This idiom means to fail to keep up with something, usually work or a deadline.
  • For example, “I’m falling behind on my emails – I need to catch up.”

Drop the ball:

  • This idiom means to make a mistake or forget to do something important.
  • For example, “I’m sorry I dropped the ball on that project – I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Make a comeback:

  • This idiom means to recover from a setback or failure.
  • For example, “After losing our biggest client, we made a comeback by focusing on our other customers.”

Motivation Idioms

No rest for the weary:

  • This idiom means to continue work without breaks.
  • For example, “Despite working late into the night, Tom arrived early the next morning to tackle the stack of paperwork on his desk—truly, there was no rest for the weary.”

Put your nose to the grindstone:

  • This means to work hard and diligently.
  • For example, “We need to put our noses to the grindstone if we want to meet our deadline.”

Whistle while you work

  • This means to stay cheerful in one’s job.
  • For example, “John managed to whistle while he worked, staying upbeat even during the end-of-year audit stress.”

Keep your eye on the prize:

  • This means to stay focused on the end goal and not get distracted by obstacles or setbacks.
  • For example, “We need to keep our eye on the prize and not let this setback discourage us.”

Rise to the occasion:

  • This means to meet a challenge with confidence and determination.
  • For example, “We need to rise to the occasion and deliver a successful presentation to our stakeholders.”