Idioms Relating To Employment, Jobs

by Prashant Kumar Sharma

  1. Above and beyond the call of duty If a person does something which is above and beyond the
    call of duty
    , they show a greater degree of courage or effort
    than is usually required or expected in their job.
    “The fire-fighter received a medal for his action which went
    above and beyond the call of duty.
  2. Back-room boys This term refers to people who do important work but have no
    contact with the public.
    Back-room boys don’t always receive the credit they deserve
    for their work.”
  3. Brain drain The departure of highly qualified people (scientists, engineers,
    etc.) for other countries, where they have better opportunities
    and usually better pay, is called the brain drain.
  4. Busman’s holiday A busman’s holiday is when you spend your spare time or
    your holidays doing the same sort of activity as you do in
    your job.
    “My husband’s a chef, so for him time off with the family is often
    a busman’s holiday!”
  5. Call it quits When people temporarily stop doing something or put an end to
    an activity, they call it quits.
    “OK. We’re all exhausted, so let’s call it quits for today.”
  6. The cream of the crop This expression is used to refer to the best people or things in a
    particular group.
    “As usual, the cream of the crop of this year’s graduates
    were offered the best jobs.”
  7. Dead wood The term dead wood refers to people or things which are no
    longer considered useful or necessary.
    “The new manager wants to reduce costs by cutting out the
    dead wood.”
  8. On the dole A person who is receives financial assistance from the
    government when they are unemployed is on the dole.
    “Their father is on the dole so the family is living on a tight
    budget.”
  9. Dream ticket If you refer to two people as a dream ticket, you think they
    would work well together and be successful.
    “Clinton and Obama teaming up for the general election would
    be a dream ticket for many Democrats.”
  10. Firing line Someone who is in the firing line is in a position to be
    criticized because of their responsibilities or the position they
    hold.
    “The managing director of the bank is in the firing line since the
    fraud was discovered.”
  11. Get the axe/be given the axe If someone gets the axe, they lose their job.
    “When a company is restructured, senior staff are often
    the first to get the axe.”
  12. Golden handcuffs The term golden handcuffs refers to a large sum of money or a
    generous financial arrangement granted to an executive as an
    incentive to stay in their job, or to ensure long-term cooperation
    after their departure.
  13. Golden handshake A golden handshake is a generous sum of money given to a
    person when they leave a company or retire
    (sometimes given to encourage early retirement).
  14. Golden parachute A golden parachute is a clause in an executive’s employment
    contract stating that the executive will receive certain large
    benefits if their employment is terminated.
  15. Hang up one’s boots When a sports player hangs up their boots, they stop
    playing and retire.
    This expression is often used to refer to retirement in general.
    “Dad says he’s going to hang up his boots at the end of the
    year.”
  16. Number cruncher This is a humorous way of referring to someone who is an
    accountant or who is very good at working with numbers and
    calculations.
    “She’s a number cruncher who perfectly understands the
    organization’s financial situation.”
  17. Learn the ropes If you learn the ropes, you learn how to a particular job
    correctly.
    “He’s bright. It won’t take him long to learn the ropes.”
  18. Paid peanuts If you are paid peanuts, you have a very low salary.
    “Anne has a very interesting job but she’s paid peanuts.
    Her salary is very low. ”
  19. Play second fiddle If you play second fiddle to somebody, you accept to be
    second in importance to that person, or have a lower position.
  20. Put out to pasture To say that someone has been put out to pasture means
    that they have been  forced to retire or give up their
    responsibilities.
    “He’s in good health and feels it’s too early to be put out to
    pasture. “
  21. Be sacked/get the sack If someone gets the sack, they lose their job, usually because
    they have done something wrong.
    Charlie got the sack when his boss caught him stealing.”
  22. Separate the sheep from the goats If you separate the sheep from the goats, you examine a
    group of people and decide which are good and which are not
    so good.
    “Examining job applications is the first stage in separating
    the sheep from the goats.
  23. Shape up or ship out This expression is used to warn someone that if they do not
    improve, they will have to leave their job.
    “When Tom started neglecting the customers, he was told to
    shape up or ship out
    .”
  24. Show somebody the ropes If you show someone the ropes, you teach or explain to
    them how to do a particular job.
    “The manager is busy showing the ropes to two new
    trainees.”
  25. Tricks of the trade This expression refers to a clever or expert way of doing
    things, especially in a job.
    “He’s a tough negotiator; he knows all the tricks of the
    trade
    .”
  26. Waiting in the wings If someone is waiting in the wings, they are waiting for an
    opportunity to take action, especially to replace someone else
    in their job or position.
    “There are many young actors waiting in the wings, ready to
    show their talent.”
  27. Walking papers If you are given your walking papers, your contract or a
    relationship is ended.
    “After causing a diplomatic incident, Carter got his walking
    papers.” 
  28. Work to rule During a conflict, when employees decide to do only the
    minimum amount of work required by company rules, and
    refuse any overtime etc., they work to rule.
    “In protest against the new measures, the employees
    decided to work to rule.”
  29. Worth one’s salt This expression is used to say that a person who does their
    job well would or would not do certain things.
    “Any inspector worth his salt would have the checked the
    papers carefully.”
  30. Xerox subsidy This term refers to the habit of using the photocopier at work
    for personal use.
    “A certain percentage of photocopies are in fact xerox
    subsidies
    .”
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