What exactly does a phrase 'we need to take contingency on them' mean? This is an expression I heard from a project manager so I presume it has to do smth with risk mitigation. However, I'd rather not guess. Thanks.

  • 4
    Managerese, though apparently closely related to English, actually has very different roots. What the project manager meant may not be guessable from what he said: try asking his secretary. Feb 19, 2014 at 21:52
  • It seems that he was saying 'we need to have a contingency plan in case they fail.'
    – Anonym
    Feb 19, 2014 at 22:17
  • 1
    Yep, that's pure gobbledygook. Your guess is as good as mine as to what it's supposed to mean.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 6, 2014 at 0:45

4 Answers 4


The honest answer is that "we need to take contingency on them" cannot be interpreted meaningfully, at least not without more context. It is managerspeak (and very poor managerspeak at that) and may be symptomatic of the problems that are leading to this apparently risky situation.


When managers make a contingency plan, what that means is they have a back up plan in case a certain event happens, i.e. something goes wrong. "Take contingency on them" in that case would be putting that contingency plan into action.

  • "Take contingency on them" in that case sounds more like "putting out a hit" on them.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 6, 2014 at 0:49

To "take a contingency on" something most usually means to formally declare that your success is contingent on that something. A similar meaning:

We need to declare dependency on them.

The actual words mean:


  1. dependence on chance or on the fulfillment of a condition; uncertainty; fortuitousness: "Nothing was left to contingency."

  2. a contingent event; a chance, accident, or possibility conditional on something uncertain: "He was prepared for every contingency."

  3. something incidental to a thing.


  1. dependent for existence, occurrence, character, etc., on something not yet certain; conditional (often followed by on or upon): "Our plans are contingent on the weather."

I have emphasized the relevant definitions.


It appears to show up in relation to communication management (which, of course, is part of project management).

For example:

Moreover can this thesis be said to take a contingency approach to crisis communication, meaning that crisis are seen to pose unique communication problems which therefore should be dealt with uniquely

And from the Communications Management Wikipedia page:

As a manager, one must take a contingency approach to communicating with their employees and communicate on a personal level. It’s the manager’s responsibility to determine if their employee’s personality falls under the following: Reactors, Workaholics, Persisters, Dreamers, Rebels, or Promoters.

So it appears to mean something more like "customized on the fly" rather than a "one-size-fits-all" canned approach.

  • This sounds vaguely related but doesn't seem to fit the context used in the quesetion. Feb 19, 2014 at 23:03
  • Perhaps it's unique to this manager. I've not run into it (that I can remember) in the entire set of Project Management Institute training materials. Feb 19, 2014 at 23:05
  • 1
    You'd think in a crisis the real issue would be talking in managerese that nobody can understand.
    – Oldcat
    Feb 21, 2014 at 0:08

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