If there is a problem at work and I want to convey to others at a similar level to me, that I would like to solve the problem "between ourselves" and not involve the boss or management - is there a good phrase or expression for that? Usually I would use something such as "keep this between ourselves" or "sort this out amongst ourselves" or "figure this out ourselves", but I cannot help but feel there should be a good expression to use.

  • I suppose "English" in the title rules out one of my favourites - mano-a-mano Dec 2, 2011 at 15:23
  • @FumbleFingers: that's not English? (like 'croissant' it's used everyday by English speakers).
    – Mitch
    Dec 2, 2011 at 15:52
  • I was being a bit tichy (tongue-in-cheek, flippant). But it wouldn't suit OP's context anyway, because he's not squaring up for a fight with his work colleagues, or trying to avoid physical confrontation by having an honest heart-to-heart (tete-a-tete). Dec 2, 2011 at 16:42
  • It's not idiomatic per se, but "Let's tackle/handle this ourselves" seems appropriate.
    – user13141
    Dec 2, 2011 at 20:57

4 Answers 4


Noting OP's comment that he doesn't want any suggestion of conspiracy or secrecy, I have to say I don't think there are many suitable idioms. OP himself says it's in the context of being more efficient - which I think implies the negative corrolary that involving management is less efficient.

The best I can come up with is Let's deal with this at the coalface, which I think emphasises the benefits of local autonomy without particularly maligning TPTB.

  • I'm going for this one - let's deal with this at the coalface says keep it between us, but it's a positive message and does not even hint at anything untoward or secretive. Dec 5, 2011 at 10:19
  • I see exactly what you mean about the unwanted secrecy, conspiracy overtones of Brian's "gatepost". Gnawme's "escalate" also minimises that aspect. But even though I said I don't think there will be many suitable idioms, I'm a bit surprised we've not been able to offer you a somewhat wider selection here. Dec 5, 2011 at 15:31
  • Ah, when the OP asked for a "good English expression," they apparently meant a good BrEnglish expression. I've never heard this expression before; +1 for the novelty...
    – Gnawme
    Dec 5, 2011 at 18:48

Between you and me and the gatepost is a phrase I sometimes hear used to mean keeping some information confined to the speaker and the listeners.

Concealing a minor error or accident or removing evidence of the consequences is sometimes called squaring it up; this has masonic undertones and is well-suited to a conspiratorial activity.

  • Thanks Brian - I was not familiar with the gatepost phrase. I think I want a phrase which is mean positively i.e. it's not conspiratorial or anything untoward, it's just the most effective means to get things done. Dec 2, 2011 at 15:11
  • 'squaring it up' doesn't sound conspiratorial to me, it sounds rather just making minor adjustments (not really about communication a way from oversight).
    – Mitch
    Dec 2, 2011 at 15:50
  • @Mitch, perhaps you are right: looking here and here it seems that on the square doesn't mean what I thought it meant (which was something like "a corrupt or underhand conspiracy"). Dec 2, 2011 at 16:04
  • @Brian: To be on the square sounds like pre-war American slang to me, that you'd only hear in movies about prohibition gangsters. Mitch is right that builders, etc., might square sth up, but in the UK at least, square up [to] is also often used to mean "draw yourself up and get ready for a fight" (both literally and figuratively). Dec 2, 2011 at 16:35
  • In American English I have heard "you, me, and the lamppost", or "you, me, and the wall" but neither is a common expression. "Goalpost" is understandable, but I have never heard it here.
    – Kirt
    Jul 3, 2015 at 0:13

Fairly common IT parlance would be to say, "Let's not escalate the issue just yet."

I commonly hear the phrase escalate the issue used in one of two ways:

  • Giving a problem or complaint a higher priority
  • Involving someone higher up the org chart in the discussion

The second sense sounds like it may be what you're after.


"We don't need to take this upstairs" or "We don't need to kick this upstairs".

"Let's keep this in-house" might do, but only if the others perceive as great a separation between themselves and the management as the OP does.

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