Things Said in the Workplace vs What They Actually Mean

What they mean when they say…

There are some things people say to us at work that can leave us wondering if there was a little more to it or if it sounded too good to be true.

But do you ever wish people would just say exactly what they meant?

Luckily, here at CakeHR HQ, we have been working on some super exclusive, unbelievably innovate technology that can help us expose the true meanings behind the messages. Using our amazing ‘Truth Translator Generator’ or ‘Say What You Really Mean Machine’, (name currently under review), we can finally decode what people are actually saying so you no longer have to wonder!

In the email:

What they say:  “Please refer to my previous email.”

What they really mean: “I’ve already told you what you need to know and I won’t tell you again.”

🗣 “Regards”

💭 “I’ve taken away the ‘Kind’ to make it very clear that you’ve annoyed me.”

🗣 “We will get back to you in due course.”

💭 “Don’t expect to hear from us again.”

🗣 “If you don’t hear back from us within 1 week of applying, please assume your application has been unsuccessful.”

💭 “That’s saved us a job.”

🗣 “Let me have a think about this and get back to you.”

💭 “I can’t be bothered to deal with this right now.”

🗣 “I will be out of the office starting 1st July through to 16th July.  I will respond to your emails as soon as possible upon my return. Thank you for your message.”

💭 “I will be out of the office starting 1st July through to 16th July.  Woohoo, I’m outta here!!!  I’m already dreading the thought of going through these emails on my return.”

🗣 “K”

💭 “Absolutely not ok.”

In the job description: 

🗣 “Competitive salary.”

💭 “We will pay you just slightly over National Minimum Wage.”

👀 “Between the men and women.”

🗣 “Enhanced annual leave.”

💭 “Good luck getting it authorised.  And no, you can’t carry it over.”

🗣 “Great sick pay entitlement”

💭 “We don’t expect you to use it.  Ever.”

🗣 “A real Team Player.”

💭 “You’ll be doing all of the work.”

🗣 “Must hold a Master’s Degree in Business Management.”

💭 “This is an entry-level position with a lot of data entry.”

🗣 “Fun, energetic, creative culture.”

💭 “We let you wear non-uniform on Fridays”

🗣 “We run lean.”

💭 “We are completely under staffed so be prepared to work harder for less.”

🗣 “Must have previous experience and relevant qualifications.”

💭 “If you have no experience or qualifications but we get on in the interview, we will probably hire you anyway.”

🗣 “Fast learner.”

💭 “We don’t have the time or resources to teach you.”

🗣 “Opportunity to work for an Award-Winning Company.”

💭 “We won an award back in 1998.”

🗣 “Family friendly organisation.”

💭 “Please don’t get pregnant.”

🗣 “Must have 5+ years experience in a similar role.”

💭 “But don’t bring any of that experience with you, because it’s already out of date.”

🗣 “Free staff lunch provided.”

💭 “Your lunch break is unpaid and you’ll be eating it at your desk while you work.”

🗣 “Rockstar”, “Ninja”, “Guru”

💭 “Just throwing some buzzwords in there for good measure.”

🗣 “Willing to get stuck in.”

💭 “Do all of the jobs nobody else is willing to do.”

🗣 “Multitasker.”

💭 “Be prepared to take on as many different tasks from as many different departments as possible, because we want to save on labour costs.”

🗣 “Some flexibility with overtime on occasion.”

💭 “You’ll be expected to work overtime most days, including weekends.  And always keep your phone on, just in case.”

From the Boss

🗣 “Can you just…”

💭 “This will make it sound easy.”

🗣 “We”

💭 “Did I say we? I meant only you.”

🗣  “I’ll bear that in mind.”

💭 “I’ve already forgotten.”

🗣 “What work have you got on today?”

💭 “You don’t look busy enough for my liking.”

🗣 “Can you come up to my office please.”

💭 “You’re in trouble.”

🗣 “I only have a few minor amendments.”

💭 “You need to completely change the whole document.”

🗣 “I’m going out and will be uncontactable all afternoon.”

💭 “I’ve had enough and I’m going home.”

From the employee

🗣 “This is the way we have always done it.”

💭 “Why are you trying to change things around here?  If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

🗣 “These systems are so out of date.  Surely there’s some technology that will improve how we all work?”

💭 “Someone get CakeHR on the phone.”

🗣 “That’s not in my job description.”

💭 “I hate my job so much, don’t ask me to do anything else.”

🗣 “I’m popping out for lunch, does anyone want anything while I’m out?”

💭 “If I avoid making eye contact, hopefully nobody will ask for anything.”

🗣 “Would anyone like a tea or coffee?”

💭  “I’m getting one for myself and I’m only asking to be polite.”

Did any of these sound familiar to you?

We all enjoy a giggle, so if you have some ‘translations’ of your own, please leave them in the comments section below.

Disclaimer:  Just for laughs only 🙂 

Things said in the workplace vs what they actually mean cakehr infographic
Things said in the workplace vs what they actually mean cakehr infographic

Created by friends at Venngage – Online Infographic and Report Templates!



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HR management software app system CakeHR human resources
HR management software app system CakeHR human resources

CakeHR is an award-winning HR software company that provides attendance, performance and recruitment management for customers worldwide. More information at

Written By

Viktorija Lasovska

Head of Customer Success at HR software company CakeHR