Are you using too much workplace jargon?

by Sophie Berrill
0 comment
workplace jargon

A report from LinkedIn and Duolingo has examined how professionals all over the world feel about workplace jargon.

Are you asking people to get things done ‘by EOD’? Do you like to ‘circle back’, ‘touch base’ or question whether colleagues are trying to ‘boil the ocean’? Sounds like you like to throw around a bit of workplace jargon.

LinkedIn and language learning platform Duolingo recently surveyed 8000 working professionals across eight countries, including Australia, India, Vietnam, Colombia, Brazil, the UK, Japan, and the US for their State of Workplace Jargon Report. The results found 58 percent of professionals feel their coworkers overuse jargon. 

What is workplace jargon?

Jargon includes special words or expressions used by a group that are difficult for others to understand. According to the report, the most common jargon in Australia is:

  1. ‘Good to go’
  2. ‘touching base’
  3. ‘arvo’
  4. ‘slammed’, and
  5. ‘bludger’.

Who likes workplace jargon?

For some, jargon is a way to feel ‘in’ at their job. But nearly half of the people polled would eliminate jargon altogether if they could.

The report found younger generations dislike jargon the most. Sixty percent of Gen Z and 65 percent of millennials want to reduce or eliminate the use of workplace jargon, compared with 50 percent of Gen X and 23 percent of baby boomers.

Despite their distaste, millennials are the generation using workplace jargon the most. Twenty-five percent say they are so accustomed to jargon at work that they barely realise they are using it.

Why do people use workplace jargon?

Duolingo’s expert on linguistics and intercultural communication, Dr. Hope Wilson, says people typically use jargon in the workplace “to project an identity of business-related authority”. 

“By knowing and using specialised lingo, you (in theory, at least!) show the people around you that you’re sophisticated and in-touch with the latest business trends,” Wilson explains.

The survey results show such tactical use of workplace language might actually be working. Sixty-one percent of respondents believe that workers with a better understanding of workplace jargon are able to get ahead at work, nabbing more promotions and raises.

Complicating communication

Using jargon has a downside and can come at a cost to clear communication and productivity. Forty percent of survey respondents say they’ve had a misunderstanding or made a mistake at work because they didn’t know the meaning of workplace jargon or misused it.  

The top five most confusing jargon used in Australia, according to the report, includes:

  1. ‘Boiling the ocean’
  2. ‘noodling’
  3. ‘low-hanging fruit’
  4. ‘juice worth the squeeze’, and
  5. ‘wheelhouse’.

FM jargon

As you burrow down into different professions, jargon can get more industry-specific, and facilities management comes with its own lingo. 

“There is quite a fair bit of ‘FM jargon’ that gets used in the industry, like PPM (Planned Preventative Maintenance), ESM (Essential Safety Measures), OPEX (Operating Expenditures) and CAPEX (Capital Expenditures),” says Micah Jacob, a senior facilities manager at CBRE.

“In my opinion such jargon should be limited for use within the FM community or internal teams. But when communicating with a wider audience – such as the tenants or owners – it’s always best to use long-form for clearer communications.” 

Fred McGregor, Country Road Group’s retail facilities and maintenance manager, agrees.

“We actually make it a point not to use any industry jargon when communicating with our brands. As we operate in a non-FM industry, we would only get blank stares!” McGregor says.  

“Our role is to communicate any issues quickly and plainly so that the brands know what to expect. Using jargon just complicates and slows down that process. Our contractors have learned to use common words and phrases so that we don’t even have to translate!” 

Equity and accessibility

Jargon doesn’t just have the potential to confuse; it can also exclude. 

Many workers (60 percent) are left figuring out terms like ‘HVAC’ or ‘wheelhouse’ on their own, causing inequity in the workplace. Hybrid and remote workers report higher rates of feeling left out due to overuse of jargon (71 percent), compared with their on-site counterparts (54 percent).

It gets harder if English isn’t your first language. Professionals from non-English speaking households or people who speak English as a second language are most likely to say the process of learning workplace jargon was stressful, slowed down productivity and made them feel left out of conversations.

To jargon or not to jargon?

Workplace jargon has its place, but it can also waste time, cause avoidable mistakes and make those who aren’t proficient in its use feel lesser than. So the next time you want to check if your new colleague is across the HVAC PPM, perhaps take those extra few seconds to spell this out to avoid any breakdown in communication – and in your facility.

The latest issue of the FM digital magazine is all about people, communication and the soft skills needed to succeed in facility management – see what’s inside the ‘People Issue’.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More