From ‘circling back’ to ‘assessing bandwidth’ or ‘drilling down,’ there are a plethora of phrases that often draw eye-rolls from employees for their cliché overuse within the workplace.
In the age of widespread social media ridicule, and yes a whole subsection of TikTok exists purely to lampoon the workplace, these terms are the veritable low-hanging-fruit of the corporate world, yet they persist. Why? In essence, because they’re a relatively useful means of conveying complex ideas quickly.
These terms serve as a shorthand for conveying ideas and concepts that might otherwise require lengthier explanations. In certain contexts, particularly within specialised industries or fast-paced environments, utilising jargon can facilitate clear and concise communication among colleagues who share a common understanding of the terminology.
This is absolutely true of the HR sector. As a tech-enabled and analytical function at the forefront of change within businesses, HR comes replete with a whole host of jargon terms. Even the basic tenets of the function, such as L&D, Comp & Bens, D&I, wellbeing, KPIs, LMS’ (etc, etc) are complex concepts condensed into a perfect bitesize phrase which can fit into a short message.
Yet, while their convenience does make corporate communication much easier, the overall prevalence of corporate jargon comes with its pitfalls. Research has shown that it can make individuals feel excluded, particularly younger workers who may be less familiar with or resistant to adopting such language.
Recent research from BRITA revealed that a quarter (25%) of office workers said corporate jargon makes them feel disconnected from their colleagues, whilst almost a third (31%) said it makes them feel less confident speaking to senior colleagues.
This presents a challenge for HR professionals tasked with fostering inclusive and collaborative work environments. While jargon may be second nature to seasoned employees, it can create barriers to effective communication and contribute to feelings of disconnect among team members.
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“Corporate jargon is all too common in the workplace but can be exclusionary and leave employees feeling left out – creating barriers between them and their colleagues,” says Eloise Leeson-Smith, a Linguist & Language Expert. “This will often result in ineffective communication in the workplace, which can be incredibly costly for employers.
“In fact, a recent report from Axios estimated it can cost over £11,000 per employee in lost productivity. So, with communication between colleagues now taking up 72% of the work week, it's no surprise that employees and executives cite that lack of effective collaboration and communication as the main cause of workplace failures and frustrations,” Leeson-Smith adds.
As HR professionals, it's therefore essential to strike a balance between the need for efficient communication and the imperative of fostering authentic connections in the workplace.
While corporate jargon may serve a purpose in certain contexts, its overuse or misuse can hinder rather than facilitate meaningful dialogue. HR departments play a crucial role in promoting clarity and transparency in communication practices, ensuring that all employees feel valued and included regardless of their familiarity with industry-specific terminology.
It's also important to recognise the shifting dynamics of workplace communication as younger generations enter the workforce. Gen Z employees, in particular, have demonstrated a preference for authenticity and transparency over traditional corporate norms.
As they ascend into leadership roles, they may bring with them a fresh perspective on communication, one that prioritises clarity and authenticity over jargon-laden discourse. As the workforce evolves, perhaps so too should our communication practices, adapting to meet the needs and preferences of a diverse and dynamic workforce.