We admit that YOLO might not be a common acronym you’ll come across when a client sends you an email or your boss wants to talk to you about next year’s budget. But there’s no denying that office culture has created so many confusing workplace acronyms that it can be challenging to keep up with them all.

Although acronyms come about so you don’t have to repeat phrases in full repeatedly, some of them are now probably so short it takes longer to work out what they actually mean.

It makes sense why they exist. It’s quite a mouthful repeating Chief Executive Officer for CEO, personal identification number for PIN or Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart for CAPTCHA. So, acronyms are a good thing as long as everyone knows what they mean — otherwise, it’s just pointless jargon.

To stay in the know about acronyms in the workplace, here’s an explanation of five of the most confusing ones.

1. WIIFM

If you’re still scratching your head after trying to guess what WIIFM means, it stands for “What’s in it for me?” Chances are, you haven’t come across this as much in the workplace as it’s pretty blunt, bold and straight to the point. 

You might need a teammate to proofread something for you as a priority. Or you’re asking somebody to drop what they’re doing to help you out. Typically, the other person will either agree or tell you they’re busy. But next time, if you see WIIFM in an email or on Slack, at least you know what they’re asking.

It doesn’t necessarily need to be in a serious setting. Perhaps you’re heading to the store during your lunch and a colleague has asked you to grab them a can of soda? You could use WIIFM jokingly in that situation, too.

You’ll also find this comes naturally to people that are blunt by nature (even if they don’t mean to be), as that’s just their personality. They’re straight talking and to the point. They don’t like ‘waffle’ as they’re efficient.

Although you know what it means, there’s no pressure to actually use it. Some prefer the WDTC acronym, which means ‘Why do they care?’ in a client situation.

2. WFH

This is an acronym you should prepare to see a lot more. WFH means ‘Working from home’ — something that’s on the rise as the working world becomes more remote and employees are given the option to work at home or flexibly.

OOO is another acronym slightly related to WFH, which stands for ‘Out of office’. Although it isn’t specific that you’re working from home and suggests you’re unavailable, it’s still a helpful acronym to be aware of. You won’t assume it’s a colleague getting into the spirit of Halloween and is instead not in the office or working at all.

WFH is a helpful acronym to work into your vocabulary in a business where flexible working is encouraged. Rather than having colleagues and clients search through your calendar or wandering around the office trying to find you, a status on Slack, for example, that reads WFH will instantly them you’re working, but you’ll just do so from home.

There are plenty of remote jobs available now where WFH is a possibility. You can say goodbye to the commute, delayed trains and unnecessarily sitting in an office space doing work you could do from the comfort of your own home. WFH is an acronym you need at the top of your list if you’re in this type of organization.

3. TLDR

TLDR is another confusing workplace acronym that can come across as rude or blunt, but it does come in handy when you find that tends to overexplain things in a wordy manner. TLDR means ‘Too long, didn’t read’, so it’s another way of saying ‘Please can you summarize this instead’ — just in a concise manner.

However, TLDR is great when you’re short on time or have a busy day. If you don’t have time to read through endless email chains that have been forwarded countless times, you can reply with a TLDR along with a polite greeting and reason why so they understand you’re busy.

TLTR (Too long to read) is another but comes across equally as blunt. Either way, a reason why helps.

It won’t cause them any confusion. They’ll understand you need a summary and will respond with quick bullet point answers with the essential information you need to know. Try to only use TLDR when you genuinely need to without throwing it around in every conversation. Or, if you’re the one that’s sending a lengthy email, offer a TLDR at the top beforehand.

It’s perfect for speeding up communication and a perfectly acceptable request in the workplace.

4. OHIO

If you ever need a strategy to help you keep things organized and get work done, OHIO is the workplace acronym you need to adopt. It stands for ‘Only handle it once’ and saves you plenty of time by acting on tasks quickly, rather than letting them simmer and working on them down the line. 

This way, you avoid piling smaller jobs on your to-do list and before you know it, your to-do list is so long with jobs you could have completed instantly that it’s difficult to catch up.

Some examples of where OHIO comes in handly include:

  • When you read an email and immediately decide whether or not you need to respond right away. If you do need to reply and you know it’ll only take you a couple of minutes, OHIO, in this instance, would be to respond on the spot rather than wait.
  • When a colleague calls you when you’re WFH to email them a document or any other task that won’t take long. OHIO would be to complete that task while on the phone rather than holding off until the call ends.
  • If you’re in a senior position, you could use the OHIO acronym to train staff on the type of work that does and doesn’t need a lot of time spent on it.

In examples like these, tasks never get on your to-do list as you only handled it once and can forget all about it. However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking everything on your list is an OHIO job. There will always be something that looks simple on the surface, but when you re-read it, you’ll realize you need to dedicate more time to it.

The last thing you want is to jump head-first into what you assumed would be a quick task, only for it to take hours and take your focus away from something else entirely.

5. COP

There’s a strong chance you’ve come across COP or some sort of variation of this in the workplace. COP standard for ‘Close of play’, where a colleague or manager asks whether you can complete a piece of work by the day in question. It’s also more likely to appear in written communication, rather than somebody verbally telling you they need you to finish that project by COP Friday. 

What causes more confusion are the different variations, which include:

  • EOD: End of day
  • COB: Close of business
  • EOW: End of week
  • TYT: Take your time

While COP and COB are the most interchangeable as they mean the same thing, it’s essential to be aware of the others. The last thing you want is a manager to tell you to complete something by EOW and you have no idea what it means. 

Alternatively, you could make the first move and understand the sense of urgency. If you’re given a task to complete, simply ask the person how urgent it is. That way, you’ll instantly know if it’s incredibly critical and they need it by EOD, or if it’s a low priority task and you can TYT.

Final Thoughts

The list of workplace acronyms will only continue to increase and these five are just the tip of the iceberg. When you’re in the workplace, you’ll quickly know your MTD (month to date) from your WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) as they’re phrases everyone in the business eventually becomes accustomed to.

At least if you’re ever in an interview and these acronyms come up, you’ll have a better idea of what they mean. Or, you could drop them in yourself the next time you’re sending an email to a colleague or requesting work to be completed.

Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, either. There’s always going to be a new acronym businesses adopt and begin to use, but not everybody will know what they are right away. If you’re ever in this situation, feel free to ask for clarification, so you’re clear on what’s needed.

Although there seems to be an acronym for pretty much anything now, they’re valuable in the sense that they help you be more efficient and get your message across quicker and with eventual clarity.

For more tips on succeeding in the workplace, finding the right career and advancing in your career, check out our blog for all of the latest insights.

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