When you work in banking, you need to understand the vernacular. Banking has its own code language and its own culture and the bosses are known to be passive aggressive. This means they might say one thing, whilst meaning something entirely different. The more senior the banker you’re dealing with, the more immersed he or she is in the culture, the greater the likelihood of this happening. You have to make sure you know what they really mean.
So, here are a handful of the euphemisms I heard over my 18 years in finance. Sometimes I still use them myself ;-)…
1. When you are leaving for a 2-week holiday
What they say: “Have a great time Jim.”
What they mean: Maybe you don’t need to come back.
2. When you make a mistake in an important deck or blow a deal
What they say: “Don’t worry about it Jim, its no big deal.”
What they mean: I will probably never trust you with anything again.
3. When you complain about your compensation
What they say: “Let me see what I can do Jim.”
What they mean: I’m going to pretend this is something I can’t change, but I can and I’m not paying you a dollar more.
4. When you ask to get promoted
What they say: “Well you know there is HR policy around this, so it seems like our hands are tied.”
What they mean: We just don’t think we need to promote you. Where are you going to go anyway?
5. When you come back from an hour long lunch
What they say: “Hey I was looking for you on this deal, why don’t you catch up on your emails and then swing by my office?”
What they mean: I have just wasted 15 minutes looking for you and am going to kick your ass when the door closes.
6. When your boss asks to speak to you 3 months before comp time
What they say: “The firm is having a really hard time, the other divisions have just not been performing. The comp budget is down 15-20%.”
What they mean: You’re not going to get paid this year and I’m going to manage your expectations way down, so when I pay you flat you are going to be doing cartwheels in the hallway.
7. When you roll in at 915am, after pulling an all-nighter
What they say: “Hope you’re feeling rested Jim!”
What they mean: You lazy d-bag, what kind of time is this to come in?
8. When you wear your best tie for the client meeting
What they say: “That’s a great Hermes tie Jim, great choice.”
What they mean: Looks like we are overpaying you Jim.
9. When you share problems you are having with your boss
What they say: “Thanks for sharing that Jim. Let me come back to you with some solutions.”
What they mean: Thanks for wasting 30 mins of my life, with your problems. Remind me not to schedule 1-on-1’s with you again
10. When you need to take some time off to run errands
What they say: “Work-Life balance is critical for us Jim. Do what you got to do.”
What they mean: What do you think you are doing. This isn’t the firm’s problem.
Now you know the code. Good luck!
The author is a former Goldman Sachs managing director and blogger at the site What I Learnt on Wall Street. This article has been written for comedic value and is not intended to disparage any firm on its policies.