asleep at the wheel


1. inattentive or negligent






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the people running that business are asleep at the wheel

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This expression alludes to the potentially catastrophic consequences likely to occur if a person was to fall asleep while driving a vehicle. To be 'asleep at the wheel' in a figurative sense means to fail to attend to one's responsibilities, fail to perform a duty, or to miss an opportunity, resulting in something bad happening. It is usually due to inattentiveness or irresponsible behaviour, and can potentially be a sackable offence. If you 'fall asleep at the wheel' you are not paying attention or you miss out on an advantage. The nature of this expression means that it is most commonly used in a professional environment. A similar expression is 'caught napping.'

Check Icon Professional Examples (Basic)

  1. My secretary was supposed to have made a note of that appointment in my diary, but she must have been asleep at the wheel.
  2. Jack was asleep at the wheel, thinking that he had the deal all sewn up. His nonchalance ended up proving costly for all of us.
  3. The people running that business are asleep at the wheel. The whole place is going down the pan!

Check Icon Social Examples (Basic)

  1. I fell asleep at the wheel and lost the opportunity to apply for a scholarship before the closing date.
  2. My friends advised me to invest in cryptocurrency, but I fell asleep at the wheel and missed out.

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