MIA is actually a military abbreviation that means Missing In Action. In terms of military conversations, MIA is something no service person would want to happen to them. While this acronym can conjure up intense emotions for service personnel, in a work environment, this acronym doesn’t have such an emotional meaning (we hope!).
While the expansion of MIA when used in office interactions is the same (Missing in Action), it has slightly different meanings based on the context of the conversation. Some of the meanings can be found below in real life office conversations.
NOTE: MIA is pronounced letter by letter: eM-EYE-AY
(The spelling of alphabets in a US accent has some unique attributes. The video tutorial is at the end of this post.)
“Can we start this meeting without Cijo? He seems to be MIA. Can anyone share updates on his behalf?”
“Because Shruti is MIA, I suggest we put her agenda items on the back burner until she comes back to work.”
“Our project is on the rocks. Every time Louis, the team lead is asked to join the meeting, he’s MIA.”
“We aren’t here to just shoot the breeze. These meetings seem to be all over the place, which is worrisome since we are down to the wire with this project. If your team members are always MIA just before the deadlines, how will this project survive?”
Today’s graphic from #AmericanEnglish: #MIA is an acronym (a type of abbreviation). pic.twitter.com/vYS5dqM4Ci
— Exchange Programs (@ECAatState) December 10, 2015
I have purposefully created statements with multiple idioms and phrases to help you with building a contexts of how multiple phrases can be used in the same sentence or communication. It can be very confusing, right? As idioms have different literal and figurative meanings, translating the exact meaning can be confusing. Then, learning how to respond is a whole new ball game!
Let’s take a look at these interactions again, translating them into plain English.
Idiomatic interaction: “Can we start this meeting without Cijo? He seems to be MIA. Can anyone share updates on his behalf?”
Plain English: “Can we start this meeting without Cijo? He’s no where to be found. Can anyone share updates on his behalf?”
Underlying meaning: In this case, MIA not only means the person is absent, but no one knows where he is. Due to this, the meeting moderator is asking for someone to talk on his behalf. Maybe the stakes aren’t too high here. But, the use of MIA gives the impression that Cijo is irresponsible.
Idiomatic interaction: “Because Shruti is MIA, I suggest we put her agenda items on the back burner until she comes back to work.”
Plain English: “Because Shruti has not let us know where she is or when she will show up, I suggest we put her items on the back burner until she comes back to work.”
Underlying meaning: Shruti is the only person who knows about her own work or discussion points. Because she doesn’t have a person to back her up in the meeting to talk on her behalf, her points will not be discussed or decided on in this meeting.
Idiomatic interaction: “Our project is on the rocks. Every time Louis, the team lead is asked to join the meeting, he’s MIA.”
Plain English & Underlying meaning: “Our project is not going well at all. Part of the reason the project is not going well is because whenever the team lead, Louis, is asked to be here at the meeting, he never shows up or gives any updates or helps us to understand who is accountable for what. What kind of manager is he?!” (This interaction can have a deeper and more harsh meaning due to the use of the other idiom “on the rocks.”)
Idiomatic interaction: “We aren’t here to just shoot the breeze. These meetings seem to be all over the place, which is worrisome since we are down to the wire with this project. If your team members are always MIA just before the deadlines, how will this project survive?”
Plain English & Underlying meaning: “We are here to talk about work, not these meaningless topics. We need to have a proper agenda so that we can have more productive discussions. We also have to be accountable for ours and our teammates attendance and their work. If we can’t work together, how can we continue this project. Should we pull this project from your team?”
In most cases, being MIA is considered being irresponsible and disorganized. It’s not a professional behavior. Due to this, if someone is MIA, the person themselves as well as their teammates should apologize to the US counterpart. Later after the meeting, the Indian offshore team should create an accountability plan or a buddy system to assure this kinds of situations become a thing of the past. In fact, Authentic Journeys business consulting has helped teams to hold more productive meetings and create accountability plans that have helped Indian offshore teams build confidence with their US counterparts and clients. For more information on our business consulting programs, get in touch with us today.
Take a look at the video below where I start of with how to pronounce IOS (the smartphone operating system), then expand the lesson into the entire English alphabet).
Updated Dec. 2019, May 2020, April 2022
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