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2 min read

Avoiding Jargon for Better Communication

Using technical language and business jargon in the workplace is commonplace. This is because a good number of employers, managers and employees feel like these fancy terms and acronyms sound savvy and it gives people who work for the organization a sense of community and comfort. More often than not, business jargon is used to impress not to inform.

However, while business jargon certainly has its advantages when relayed through communication efforts such as email, face-to-face interaction, a text alert system, and others, it may also cause alienation and confusion, and may hinder productivity in the workplace.

Why Business Jargon Can Do More Harm Than Good

Here are some of the reasons why business jargon can do more harm than good:

1. Jargon can cause confusion

In a lot of cases, jargon can be so bastardized or overused that staff members no longer know what they mean even if they recognize them. Whether you use them in your text alert system, email or face-to-face meetings, phrases such as “drinking the Kool-Aid” or “burning platform” may be familiar to some employees, but they might not know what to make of them. This then leads to confusion, and if the phrases are commonly used, employees may be embarrassed to ask you what they are supposed to take from what you just said.

2. Jargon can offend

There are some terms and phrases so commonly used in the workplace that those who speak or listen to them may not know that they are actually highly offensive. While a manager may use “open the kimono” in his messages sent through a text alert system, email or group chat to mean “sharing all information equally,” employees who are unfamiliar with the term may take what he or she is saying in a negative way. Instead of using figurative phrases such as the one mentioned, it is best to be direct to the point and literal instead of possibly causing offense.

3. Unclear terms could be used

While jargon such as “net” and “gross” are commonly used in the workplace, even the most competent staff members may not understand business phrases enough to be able to use them effectively. Instead of using highly technical and corporate terms in the workplace, just be as straightforward and clear as possible. Also remember to ask employees during your interactions if everything you said is clear, and make sure to let them know that you will not judge them if they do not understand what you are saying.

Common Phrases to Avoid

1. Acronyms

While they are common and extremely tantalizing to use (especially if what is being shortened is long, and is being sent over a text alert system), not everyone may understand what you are saying. Remember that there are people who still mistake the common acronym “LOL” for “lots of love” instead of “laugh out loud”.

2. Phrases and terms

Here are some of the more common phrases and terms you should avoid using in the workplace:

  1. Out of pocket
  2. Bite the bullet
  3. Big boy pants
  4. Core competency
  5. Paradigm shift
  6. Elephant in the room
  7. Make hay
  8. Scalable
  9. Buy in
  10. Move the needle
  11. Leverage
  12. Core competency
  13. Robust 

Strive for Simplicity

Business jargon is often used by both leaders and staff members because of familiarity and the need of the speaker or sender to impress. Instead of looking to impress, strive for simplicity and clarity instead. Utilize simple language that is literal and straightforward. This will ensure a smoother flow of communication, and will avoid confusion and offense.

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