Business Idioms 4: Lack of control

This lesson will focus on using a variety of expressions related to lack of control.


This lesson will help you use idioms describing lack of control. You will also get a chance to talk about your own experiences.

Warm Up: 

Describe a time when you felt powerless to change something.


Please consider each expression and match them to the images. Your instructor has an example and a question regarding each one. 

  1. (something is) out of my hands—something is not in my power to do.
  2. out of the loop—not involved in the decision-making process.
  3. throw in the towel—surrender, give up, quit.
  4. like a headless chicken—disorganised, uncontrolled, in a panic.
  5. (someone's) hands are tied—someone is powerless, unable to influence events.

A: B:
C: D:



A. Complete the anecdote

Read each section and choose an appropriate idiom from the list above.

  1. Jennifer wanted to transfer to America, but she couldn’t get a work permit. She spoke with the HR department, but they said that the law was clear and there was nothing they could do to solve the problem. Their...
  2. Clear lines of communication are vital for a project to run smoothly. An agile environment requires that each member of the team knows what others are doing, and nobody is...
  3. Learning English may be difficult at times, but don't ever...!

  4. The team leader tended to panic in an emergency. So when something urgent and unexpected needed to be done, he just ran around...
  5. The decision is not my responsibility. My manager is dealing with it, so honestly... 

B. Discussion

Use idioms to discuss the following topics.

  1. What are the consequences of quitting a difficult task?
  2. Have you ever panicked?
  3. Do you have enough power at work?



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