“Actionable item,” noun phrase, a specific piece of work assigned to a person. Usage note: When an investment banking vice president breezily calls an associate or analyst (both rank below the VP in the pecking order) into his office to talk about a new assignment, the VP will assign a number of actionable items to his lackey at the end of what will inevitably be a one-way discussion. It should be noted that the VP invariably calls the junior banker to his (the VP’s) office; there are almost no circumstances imaginable in which the VP would deign to get up from his desk and walk to the associate’s crappy three-man, internal closet-masquerading-as-an-office or the analyst’s ramshackle cube.
According to Hilarius Fuchs, Professor of Psychiatry at Colorado School of Professional Parapsychology, there are at least three reasons for the VP’s astoundingly petty behavior: 1) having in all likelihood endured the indignities of being an associate himself (the late nights, the weekend work, the indigestible General Tso’s takeout dinner at his desk, the reformatting of hundreds of pitchbook pages never seen by a client), the VP loves the perks of hierarchy and indulges in them whenever possible, 2) the raison d’etre of a VP is arranging his day so that he never needs to leave his office (that includes having his secretary get his printouts from the copier; he’ll ask her to fetch them by speaker-phone even if her desk is three feet from his open door), and 3) if the VP actually had to stand while talking to an underling, then he couldn’t very well put his Allen Edmonds wingtips up on his desk (the self-deluding bankers who fancy themselves dandies sometimes wear the iconic Alden tassel loafers). The actionable items assigned might include: photocopying 20 pages from each of about 10 annual reports (each document will be marked with so many colored sticky tabs that it will look like some kind of fruitcake), updating a spreadsheet on the financial performance of 15 companies that are supposedly “comparable” to the client but aren’t even in his industry, and hand-delivering this waste of time and paper to the VP’s doorman at about 2:30 a.m. so that the VP can fall asleep while reading all of it on his flight the next morning. A banker with any trace of self-awareness and any desire to be a normal person will submit his resignation the first time that he catches himself telling a family member that there are “actionable items” needing attention around the house.