We hear idioms and cliches all the time, right? And usually, my eyes are the first to roll. But there’s a reason people still speak in idioms, even though many of them don’t make sense.
They’re easy to apply to any situation.
They can be universal truths, i.e. “a fool and his money are soon parted” is pretty much the basis for all of personal finance advice in the world.
And they have universal appeal. Everyone can relate to them.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized: there’s actually some good advice in these idioms. Especially for the workplace!
I found 13 classic idioms that are actually pretty good at succinctly giving advice to employees.
1. A Bird In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush
Workplace translation: don’t leave your current job (the bird in your hand) in the hopes of finding a new one (two in the bush) because even though the bush birds offer twice as much potential, the only guarantee is the bird you’re holding.
2. A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand
Workplace translation: be a team member, please! Work with your colleagues, not against them. You’re all on the same team.
3. Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Workplace translation: If you see something that needs to be done at work, do it. Don’t talk about doing it. Don’t tell someone else to do it. Just do it. You’ll be seen as a person of action, and the person people want to come to when they need something done.
4. Cut To The Chase
Workplace translation: be direct in your communication. If you have something uncomfortable to say, delicately phrase it, but just say it and move on. Make your goal to cut down on the number of steps it takes to reach a conclusion.
5. A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss
Workplace translation: switch jobs every few years to stay fresh. You don’t want to get stagnant in your career, so every few years you should ask yourself whether you can continue growing or you’ve reached a plateau. If it’s the latter, move on before you start to gather moss.
6. Haste Makes Waste
Workplace translation: Don’t rush through something important. You’ll end up looking like someone who makes too many mistakes. Take your time.
7. Idle Hands Are The Devil’s Tools
Workplace translation: If you don’t have enough to do, ask for more. You don’t want to be seen as expendable, so when you’ve finished your to-do list, make sure you’re asking your supervisor for more work.
8. It Takes Two To Tango
Workplace translation: If someone is trying to argue with you, remember, you do not have to engage. Stay calm, stay quiet, and do not tango.
9. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Workplace translation: Leave past arguments and conflicts in the past. Did you have a disagreement with a coworker last Friday? Let go of it by Monday morning.
10. Method To Her Madness
Workplace translation: Everyone has their own way of getting work done. There’s no reason to concern yourself with how someone else accomplishes her tasks.
11. Don’t Bite The Hand That Feeds You
Workplace translation: Remember who pays your check, and be respectful and responsive to them.
12. Practice Makes Perfect
Workplace translation: we all make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes you’ve made. Just keep practicing — you’ll get better!
13. The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall
Workplace translation: Don’t compare yourself unfairly to your competition. Sure, you may be new, or you may be smaller than the other person, but if they fall, they have a lot to lose.