Microspeak: Hipo

A friend of mind was asked out of the blue, "What does hypo mean?"

She started to flash back to high school English class and Greek word roots.

"I've started to hear it everywhere. Like Everyone in that meeting is a hypo or We need to reach out to hypos."

My friend realized that she had mis-heard the question. It was not about the Greek root hypo but rather the bizarro Microspeak word hipo, shorthand for high-potential employee.

As I researched this term (which I had never encountered before), I found that it fell into that special category of Microspeak known as if you have to ask, I'm not going to tell you. Identifying and developing high-potential employees is one of the charter activities of the ExPo project. And if you look through the ExPo Web site, you'll find that nowhere do they tell you what HiPo and ExPo stand for. "If you have to ask, I'm not going to tell you."

My friend suggested that "ExPos are people who have a lot of potential and enjoy showing it off to others."

Comments (23)
  1. JS Bangs says:

    The bonus irony is that <i>hypo</i> in Greek actually means "beneath", and in medical usage it refers to something which is below expected levels, e.g. <i>hypoglycemia</i> = lack of blood sugars.

  2. parkrrrr says:

    Obviously an ExPo is someone who formerly had potential, but is now in management.

  3. Gechurch says:

    I don't know – there are other options. It could be an "abbreviation" for 'Excellent Posers', or 'Expert Pontificators' maybe. Or possibly 'Exceedingly Portentous' even. Or maybe the self-fulfilling 'Extremely Postulate'.

    Personally, I think they're Excreting Poo (verbally, that is).

  4. Alex Grigoriev says:

    ExPo – Excessively Pompous

  5. Jeff says:

    ExPo is someone with great potential to be my future ex-wife

  6. Henning Makholm says:

    My first association was the HIPO Corps, an auxiliary police corps during the Nazi occupation of Denmark, staffed with native collaborators and infamous for its brutality. Which makes "Hipo" a rather strong insult in Danish (and, after the war, a favorite chant of anti-establishment protesters facing perceived police oppression).

  7. Cezary Tomczak says:

    Hypo are people who make lot of hype, they have their 5 minutes.

  8. Sven says:

    Hypo is short-hand for a hypospray in Star Trek. :)

  9. Patrick L says:

    Is that only me to first think of "hypocrites"?

  10. S says:

    I always thought it was HIPPO – "HIghest Paid Person in the Office" or the "HIghest Paid Person's Opinion".

  11. People with a lot of potential are just asking to be shorted out.

  12. Someone You Know says:


    It's also slang for "hypodermic needle" in many places in the real world.

  13. Jonathan says:

    I've seen a similar (local-)Microspeak develop – in our project, someone (incorrectly) referred to a piece of code as "business logic", shorted it to "Bizzlo", and started using it throughout the specs. Fortunately, it didn't survive.

  14. Haacked says:

    A colleague of mine is a HIPO and I often joke with him that I hope he doesn't mind working with a LOPO like me. ;)

  15. J says:

    Agree with S, i know it as  "higest paid person's opinion".

    the exp group even gave out little hippo squishy doll things that say "listen to the customer" to keep people from only listening to the hippo.

  16. David Walker says:

    @Maurits:  Bravo!  It took me a couple of seconds, but I got it.  Good one!

  17. lefty says:

    >> if you have to ask, I'm not going to tell you. <<

    Are you sure it's not more like "if you have to ask, you aren't"?

    [I happened to spot a bunch of people getting on a bus labeled "ExPo something something", and I asked them, "What does ExPo stand for?" They didn't know either. -Raymond]
  18. Ishmael says:

    Ah, the hipos. The 3rd sentence of Chapter i of Moby Dick is

    "Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off — then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."

    But I don't suppose you see many hats at Microsoft.

  19. steveg says:

    HIKI? High-kinetic employees — all those fatties jumping out the window.

  20. Jim says:

    Where I work the term is "HiPots"

  21. keith says:

    Jayson Werth could have been an ExPo, as he was a HiPo while on the Phillies, but it was not to be as the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals in 2004.  

  22. Danny Moules says:

    ExPo stands for 'Exceptional Potential'. Apparently 'Leaders Building Leaders', turning Tier 3 'Individual Contributors' (who need to '[build] commitment and aspiration to leadership through greater self-awareness' apparently) to get them into 'more senior, critical roles'.

    Sorry, if you're just an Individual Contributor, you're probably not critical and you're not self-aware I'm afraid. If you're really fortunate (one of the lucky '4%'. Why 4%? Who knows!), a gracious ExPo might sweep out of leadership heaven and pluck you up and teach you self-awareness and how to be critical and important! How gracious of them.

    If you don't have anything better to read and don't mind feeling nauseous, Microsoft espouse the benefits of this approach in:

    Best Practices in Talent Management: How the World's Leading Corporations Manage, Develop, and Retain Top Talent (Pfeiffer Essential Resources for Training and HR Professionals)


    ISBN-10: 0470499613

    ISBN-13: 978-0470499610

  23. Danny Moules says:

    Oh dear. The blog snipped the link. Oh well, you can always um… Bing it.

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