1

I know that "an ace up your sleeve " is an idiom .

However , I don't understand the meaning of the term when our manager says to our data scientist :

"You produced what you always produce - a report on structured data, but you really didn’t prove any additional value."

Data scientist:

are either also indifferent and just go back to what you have always done... or you have an ace up your sleeve...

  • This is an English idiom, but is not considered business-language. – JCG Nov 6 '15 at 5:18
3

The idiom's definition is:

to have an advantage that other people do not know about

In this case, the manager seems to be commenting that the data scientist is either turning in lackluster work or is keeping whatever is special about his work hidden for now, possibly to appear more impressive later.

2

It is a common popular idiomatic expression, used also in business contexts:

Ace up your sleeve:

  • Meaning: a surprise or secret advantage, especially something tricky that is kept hidden until needed.

Origin:

  • In the 1500s, most people didn’t have pockets in their clothes, so they kept things in their sleeves. Later on, magicians hid objects, even small live animals, up their sleeves and then pulled them out unexpectedly to surprise their audiences. In the 1800s dishonest card players secretly slipped a winning card, often an ace, up their sleeves and pulled it out when nobody was looking.

(English-for-students.com)

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