Cultural Lingo: Bringing New Employees into Company Culture by Explaining Jargon

Here we are — early 2022, riding the waves of an ever-changing world informed by the covid-19 pandemic. We made it through the sourdough bread phase, the Zoom hangouts, and the nationwide Tiger King fascination (rawr!). We now sit firmly in the Great Resignation phase (and the Wordle phase, but I digress). Folks across industries are reframing what work means to them and trying out new paths they never thought were available. For some, this has meant finding a new job that aligns with preferences around work/life balance, salary, or flexibility.

Since March of 2020, Atomic Object has onboarded 17 new Atoms across our Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and Chicago offices. Our team has stayed agile and open to ideas to enhance the onboarding experience for new Atoms, but as we grow our offices and expand our Atom pool, we need to make our culture even more accessible. If you’ve come into contact with Atomic in the past, you might know that we have a pretty quirky set of terms used around the office. When I started in 2019, it took me a while to soak up all of this lingo and feel confident enough to actually use the jargon out in the wild (aka the office). My hope is that sharing these terms publicly will help new Atoms (and even clients) get a feel for Atomic’s culture and kick off their experience with Atomic by feeling “in” on that culture.

Without further adieu, here are seven of the most-used Atomic terms:

FUDA (pronounced foo-da)

This is one of my favorites. FUDA stands for Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, and Anger. It’s a bit of a catchall term that Atoms use to describe a range of negative feelings. The cool thing about FUDA is that it’s a neutral term that can help folks cross-culturally express their emotions in a professional setting. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to say, “Hey, boss, I’m angry at you!” you might feel empowered by saying, “I’m feeling some FUDA about XYZ situation, and I’d like to talk to you about it.”

Crucial Conversation

This lingo comes to us from the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. In the past, new Atoms read this book as a part of their onboarding because it helps create a shared understanding of how to tackle potentially toxic situations at work. You can read more about how Atomic utilizes Crucial Conversations here, but the basic premise is that these conversations help identify and process conflict while creating a dialogue that is honest and respectful.


Here at AO, we have acronyms galore (see what I did there? AO!). These acronyms are plain and simple, but because they’re so simple, it can be easy for Atoms to forget that new folks might not understand what the heck they stand for! I’ll break it down:

  • MP: Managing Partner. Atomic has two managing partners in each office that conduct sales, manage staff and client relationships, and develop new business.
  • DL: Delivery Lead. These makers are responsible for collaborating on and co-creating products with designers, developers, and clients with a focus on communication, project and product management, and high-level product architecture.
  • CDM: Career Development Manager. CDMs have a shared set of responsibilities in addition to their regular maker work, including being responsible for the career development of a handful of other Atoms. They help address concerns and offer guidance for Atoms throughout their career.

Pair Lunch

A favorite among the company, a pair lunch is a benefit that Atomic offers to employees. The rules of a pair lunch are fairly simple:

  1. Any two Atoms can go out for lunch, and Atomic will cover the bill.
  2. You can pair lunch as often as you’d like, as long as you don’t lunch with the same person twice in one month.

This benefit has been a highlight of my time at Atomic. Not only do I get to take an hour to get to chit-chat with my colleagues, but I also get to support local restaurants! The pair lunch also helps break down some barriers folks might have to get to know one another. Asking someone to get lunch can be daunting, but asking someone to grab free food with you is much more chill.

Wacky Idea

This lingo is a bit of a disclaimer that folks use before sharing an “out of the box” idea. It signals to the folks you’re talking to that your idea might be half-baked or a bit out there. Why share half-baked ideas? Because wacky ideas push us forward and challenge basic assumptions we all hold. Maybe Atomic won’t start our fourth office on a cruise ship, traveling around the world picking up new Atoms on the way… but that wacky idea could start a conversation about workplace flexibility that might not have happened otherwise.


Culture isn’t static, and some of these terms may not stay with Atomic forever. My hope is that sharing them helps create a dialog around company culture and how to bring new folks into the fold. I look forward to exploring and adopting new terms throughout my career at Atomic. And (wacky idea), maybe I’ll even make my own AO term!

What cultural lingo does your organization use? How do you help new folks steep in and understand that lingo?