27 July 2008

Office Lingo: Learning the language of a new office

I am starting a new job tomorrow and with every new job there comes the new words, phrases and the dreaded acronyms. We get used to some things and start referring to them by our pet names. We don't even notice it, because we all know what we are talking about – except of course the new person. When they are on the scene you start to realize your office talk is not as easy to understand as you thought.

In both law firms I worked at we called the different files we worked on matters. We generally referred to the file number as the matter number. When I first started there I didn't know what they were talking about. You get it after awhile, but for a new person it is all so different.

I remember at the last place I worked, my bosses were all at a conference on PIPEDA and PHIPA. And that is exactly where they told me they were going. How the heck would I know what that meant? I just nodded my head as if I knew what it was and then frantically started searching on the Internet to find out the meaning. I now know what they mean: Personal Health Information Protection Act ("PHIPA") and Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act ("PIPEDA"). Thank goodness for Autotext. Instead of having to remember all the time I just put them in Autotext and press enter or press the spacebar and voila, there is the word I want.

I have noticed in the States they refer to something called a 401 when they are discussing pensions. I noticed it on an interactive site and wondered what they were talking about. Where I live the 401 is a major highway that I take to get to Toronto. What is a 401? I looked it up on the Internet and the closest I came is something called a 401(a) Money Purchase Pension Plan, which is probably what they were referring to. They all knew what they were talking about, but I sure didn't.

Our choice of words and acronyms can depend on our place of work, which city we live in and also which country we are from, eh?

In a law office we use words like sine die, prima facie and other latin words quite often. I still haven't figured out what most of them mean, but I know how to spell them at least.

At my new job I have things like UNGASS, NGO, UNODC, VNGOC to learn the meanings of. They also use terms like ad hoc and ex officio and other terms I am not accustomed to using. I have been doing my homework however to find out the meanings. There is a lot of preparation you can do before starting a new job that will make your first day less overwhelming.


Be your own boss...now there's a term I could get used to.


Jodith said...

Boy, do I know what you are talking about. I've spent a lot of my career not just moving between jobs, but moving between industries. Every time, it's a big learning curve. I've found, though, that most bosses are understanding of this, and if you ask will give you a brief summary of what they are talking about, enough anyway to let you get started on finding the info on the internet. I usually will keep a list of acronym's and terms throughout the day to ask the boss about in our morning get together (another thing I try to institute with a new boss, if possible, especially early in the relationship).

Patricia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Patricia Robb said...

I agree Jodith. I am planning on having daily meetings with my boss.

And yes, they are very sympathetic to this newbie not knowing the acronyms and words they use. I am probably my worst critic however because I want to know everything right away.