Business English Lesson – English Phrases & Expressions for Discussing Office Politics.

In this Business English lesson, Rachna will teach you a few English expressions & Phrases that you could use when you talk about office politics. This Spoken English lesson is taken from the Business English course conducted at Let’s Talk English Speaking Institute in Mumbai.

Butter someone up = be very nice to someone because you want something: “If you want a pay rise, you should butter up the boss.”

The blue-eyed boy = a person who can do nothing wrong: “John is the blue-eyed boy at the moment.

Pull a few strings = use your influence for something: “I had to pull a few strings to get this assignment.”

Pass the buck = pass on the responsibility to someone else: “The CEO doesn’t pass the buck. In fact, he often says “the buck stops here!”

Be thrown in at the deep end = not get any advice or support: “He was thrown in at the deep end with his new job. No-one helped him at all.”

A them and us situation = when you (us) are opposed to “them”: “The atmosphere between the two departments is terrible. There’s a real them and us situation

Get on the wrong side of someone = make someone dislike you: “Don’t get on the wrong side of him. He’s got friends in high places!”

Bbe in someone’s good (or bad) books = be in favour (or disfavour) with someone: “I’m not in her good books today – I messed up her report.”

Complete Lesson Transcript –

Hey friends, are you someone who talks about office situations or maybe how people behave in your office? Yes, all of us do but sometimes we run out of words and we go with very plain, simple words when we talk about what’s happening in the office or a particular colleague style of behavior. So in today’s lesson, let’s look at some expressions that you could use to talk about office politics or may be situations that happen in your day to day work life, okay.

So the first one says, butter up someone. Now, what do you mean by butter up? Yeah, you butter up someone that means you are really sweet to someone at work. Maybe because you want something from them or you want them to help you or you want certain favors. Now let’s look at an employee who really sweet talks his boss into things and really praises him or who’s always around him and willing to do things and you know speaks in a very sugar-coated manner that means he is buttering up his boss because he wants something. Maybe, a promotion or a raise in the salary. Yes, so when up butter up someone, okay you do this and you say a lot of sweet things and you know kind of always are around the person to get something done or when you want something, right?

So maybe some of your colleagues are always buttering up the manager or their bosses and then you say, hey Lara is someone who is always buttering up the boss. So no wonder she gets the best facilities or the perks in the company, right? That means she always sweet talks or is says nice things or praises her boss.

The next one is a blue-eyed boy. You can also have a blue-eyed girl. Okay if you are talking about a female. A blue-eyed boy or a blue-eyed girl is someone who is the perfect employee of the company and apparently does nothing ever. Quite hard to believe because all of us make mistakes. We fumble, we do things, we do err but a blue-eyed boy or a blue-eyed girl is someone who is just so perfect. So sometimes you know, we say it for our colleagues, we describe our colleagues by saying, oh, she is the blue-eyed girl of the boss that means according to the boss, she is the most perfect employee of the company or we could see the quintessential employee of the company. So if someone is a blue-e eyed boy or girl in your office that means he is kind of the favorite or someone who the boss is completely dependent or is just so perfect in his work.

Yes, so well, this is one of the ways of talking about people who are the favorites of bosses or managers or leaders. The next one is pull a few strings. Now think of strings literally when you pull a few strings, you make things go your way, right? So you have the puppet show where you pull strings and you make the puppets dance or act accordingly. Now, when talking about office politics, we say pull a few strings, when a person uses influence to get something done. Now imagine a manager has got this huge project which is very important and is going to contribute to, I mean contribute majorly to the company’s profit this year and you kind of look at him and say. Well for him it’s no big deal because all he’s got to do is, pull a few strings. So, someone who uses influence to get things done, you always say the person can pull a few strings or the person pulls a few strings to get his work done. That means he uses his influence.

We also we use it for people with high designations up there in the management, when you want to say if someone is in a mess, you know. There are some issues which are sensitive and you say, oh he just needs to pull a few strings and everything would be sorted. That means the person will use his influence with people and get things sorted, right?

The next one is, pass the buck. Oh, this is one of my favorite expressions because that’s what all of us like to do in office, right? You have a new responsibility and then you feel you can just give it off to someone else. So that you pass the buck, okay. So when you pass on your responsibilities, your duties or anything that is yours and supposed to be done by you to someone else that means you are passing the buck. so if a colleague of mine, is going to pass on her buck to me, I’m going to tell her, hey stop it, okay I’m not doing this and stop passing the buck to me. That means passing on the responsibility.


Okay, the next one is, to be thrown in at the deep end. Now imagine you are just thrown in and dumped deep down, okay at the deep end. What does it mean? It means that there is no one around you. You have no help or support or guidance, right or no one to advise you. Now we use this when you have a task to complete and it could be a big or a small one. It could be a very important project at work and nobody is there to support or guide you or give you advice. I mean you are all by yourself, you have to figure out things, and you have to do it, completed and meet the deadlines. So that is the time to say, you know I’m thrown in at the deep end. I’m always thrown in at the deep end when I have projects that means I’m complaining that there is no help, support or guidance given to me. so, well if you are victim to this, instead of saying, I have no one to help me and no one to guide me, you could always say, I’m always thrown in at the deep end, okay. That means there is no one to guide you, support you or advise you.

Fine, the next one is, a them and us situation. Now, this is a very rare common expression used but now imagine there are two departments who are always at loggerheads. Loggerheads mean who are always ready to argue and fight or basically never come to any kind of agreement. So we always oppose them and they always oppose us, right and that is how we are at loggerheads we are always arguing. So when you have a situation like this and there is no just no, you know we are not cordial, the two departments are not cordial and we never to come to terms of an agreement. There is a lot of animosity, okay and there is no coordination basically. You always say, I mean God things between these two departments are terrible because it is always a them, a them, right the other department and us situation. So it’s a them and us situation and that is when you say, things are a mess between two departments. It could be two teams, okay or two branches of the same company.

Well, this is quite a sad state to be in or to experience. The next one says; get on the wrong side of someone. Now it doesn’t literally mean the side of someone. It basically means you make somebody dislike you. Now imagine you are new in this company and you kind of crack a witty joke which has not gone down too well with your manager. Okay maybe your sense of humor and the way he’s taken it, is completely different and he’s a little miffed. That means he’s a little angry, he’s irked, he is quite not liked whatever you said. That means you have gotten on the wrong side of someone. That means I mean instantly, okay, I mean maybe not deliberately but ultimately, you have actually made him dislike you. So if you know someone is really stern or if you know someone is a no-nonsense person, friends trust me never get on the wrong side of those people because you want to say those mess with those people. Yeah so don’t get on the wrong side of someone. Don’t make someone dislike you.

Alright and the last one that we have here is, be in someone’s good books. now to be in someone’s good books is when you are in favor with someone or you know kind of it could be a manager so, you always do his work, you help him, you support him and you’ll have a great work relationship and that means you are always in the good books. He always has a very high opinion of you and is one of your well-wishers at work too. So if you are in good books with someone that means you are in, you know you are just in a good space with that person and the person really respects you, you are in favor with someone. Now you can also be in the bad books, okay. So if you are in the bad books that means exactly the opposite of good books. You have rubbed the wrong side of the person so you are in going to be in the bad books of the person.

Right friends, so yes so that means to be in favor with someone. So it could be good or bad, depending on the situation. So, friends, these are the basic few expressions that you could use in your day to day work life when you want to talk about politics when you want to talk about your colleague’s behavior. I hope this is useful, go ahead and use these expressions. I’ll be back soon with a new lesson, till then take care and bye.

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