I have some staff members that have to perform penetration testing. The odd thing about my staff is that I have engineers in locations but there are often just 1-2 per location and they all pretty much sit by sales or HR (non-techies).

So when we start talking about penetration testing, we might talk about backdoor entry, plugging holes, how deep we can penetrate, the talk can get rather hairy!

For the non-techie they might think the talk is vulgar but is perfectly reasonable in our conversations. What is the expectation of this talk at the workplace and what could we do to not offend anyone?

Note: I want to be clear this isn't about acting like middle schoolers. This is just have talks on the phone and then my guys hearing snickering from others around, and then their own set of jokes. I don't think any of the people have been offended but it does worry me because it only takes one grumpy person to make a deal about something.

  • 9
    Are any of your staff middle schoolers? If not, then you should be fine.
    – Brandin
    Feb 25, 2016 at 20:10
  • It is your responsibility to let the 'bystanders' know what is going on, so that they are not surprised (I assume that is not a secret, since they are current overhearing stuff as well).
    – user8036
    Feb 25, 2016 at 21:05
  • Do you have any meeting rooms on premises? Scheduling one of them for security related discussions seems fair, not just because of possible snickering.
    – Brandin
    Feb 26, 2016 at 8:51
  • @Brandin - That is not going to happen. This is part of their job. They are not going to book meeting rooms to talk.
    – blankip
    Feb 26, 2016 at 15:27
  • If there aren't any substitute words in your profession, you don't have a choice. Maybe the support staff needs to start learning how the company makes money.
    – user8365
    Feb 27, 2016 at 4:40

2 Answers 2


A few of these phrases interspersed through a conversation should not be taken as vulgar even by non-techies, if the conversation is a long stream of these phrases without pause I would assume that your engineers are intentionally being crude.

  • 2
    Exactly, especially since there are plenty of synonyms for most of the terms involved. Anyone insisting on "plugging holes" and doing a "deep penetration test" instead of a pentest should be told to grow up.
    – Lilienthal
    Feb 25, 2016 at 20:53

If the conversation is otherwise in a professional tone and is mostly serious (I don't mean without any laughs but without uproarius, table-bangig laughter) then I'd expect people to realize that what they hear is not vulgar jokes but phrases specific to IT work and be fine with it.

I imagine some may make snarky comments but after a few initially I'd expect those to taper off.

If you want to avoid being offensive (I don't think it is but I'm also in IT), you could vary the phrases, like "plugging holes" and "plugging security holes", etc. These variants would - over the course of the conversation - definitely clear it up.

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