Establishing an effective corporate culture might be more important now than ever – both in the way a business communicates with customers and clients and the way it handles internal communications.
Of the many elements that can help a brand or business to build a culture that stands out from the competition, communication is among the most important. That communication needs to be consistent and genuine, which means you might want to consider cutting the jargon out.
Turning common sayings and cliches into your corporate jargon might seem like a good way to establish community, but that could actually be hurting the way team members communicate with each other and with their clients and customers. To understand which jargon makes people cringe, and which might not be so bad, we surveyed 1,000 people across the United States about the most overused office sayings. Read on to see what we discovered.
Ranking Common Sayings
When it comes to establishing effective communication, written communication can be just as important to your business culture – and even a little trickier to institute successfully. Nearly half of the Americans we surveyed said it was better to hear office jargon spoken out loud than to read it in written form. Email and messaging can be some of the most frequent ways an office communicates (both internally and externally), and written jargon could be making you look bad.
Phrases like “LOL” (an abbreviation for “laugh out loud”), “ping me,” and “growth hacking” (or “growth hacker”) were rated the least acceptable terms to use in a professional setting, while other phrases like “synergy,” “paradigm shift,” and “circle back” didn’t carry such negative connotations. If you have to use certain buzzwords, you might want to stick with phrases like “transparency,” “best practice,” and “touch base,” which were among the more acceptable expressions in use today.
Bothersome Buzzwords, by Industry
Depending on which industry you work in, certain phrases or sayings could be more overplayed and annoying to your co-workers than others.
Across the board, phrases like “LOL” and “ping me” might be some of the most controversial office buzzwords in our vocabulary. While Americans working in education rated them more acceptable phrases they might hear on a routine basis, people working in finance, government, hospitality, IT, marketing, science, and technology told us that “LOL” was among the least acceptable phrases their co-workers said aloud.
When it comes to informal jargon like “LOL,” some critics argue that it should never be used in your written (or verbal) communication, regardless of how casual your work relationships might be or whether customers are OK with it.
Americans working in education, wholesale and retail, and technology told us the terms “growth hacking” and “growth hacker” were among the more aggravating phrases tossed around the workplace, while people working in legal, health care, finance, and science said they were some of the least annoying for them.
Dress and Diction
There are plenty of ways you can earn respect at work. Some experts say personality traits like confidence, timeliness, and humility will help set you up for success, while gossip and exclusiveness might set you back. It turns out the jargon you use around the office might also play a role in building the right (or wrong) kind of reputation at work.
Whether your office dress code is business (or business casual) or just plain casual, using buzzwords like “LOL,” “ping me,” and “growth hacking” could cause your co-workers to lose respect for you. Even in a completely casual work environment, certain terms, like “synergy” and “ICYMI” (an abbreviation for “in case you missed it”), might be best to avoid using.
In contrast, some jargon could help you build better rapport with your co-workers. In both a business (or business casual) or casual workplace, “best practice,” “touch base,” “open-door policy,” and “keep me posted” were ranked as phrases that could help you earn respect at the office.
Think Before You Speak
Millennials may be criticized for using jargon only they understand, but when it comes to overused and aggravating sayings around the office, most generations of Americans were on the same page about the negative impact language could be having on perceptions of intelligence.
According to the baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials we surveyed, using lingo like “LOL,” “ICYMI,” and “ping me” could be making you look worse than you think. On the other hand, some jargon could actually help make you look smarter to your colleagues, but that might depend more on the age of your co-workers.
Phrases like “high-level overview” and “run it up the flagpole” were seen as being among the most educated jargon to baby boomers, while Gen Xers responded positively to sayings like “no-brainer” and “drill down.” Even millennials had a different opinion on which expressions gave off the best air of intelligence, including “take it offline” and “jump ship.” In today’s work environment, tailoring your style of communication to your audience might not just help get your point across – it could help you build better, more successful working relationships.
While some jargon may be seen as too casual or pretentious around the office, some phrases might be unavoidable.
The Americans we polled told us sayings like “ASAP” (an abbreviation for “as soon as possible”), “touch base,” “keep me posted,” and “bandwidth” were among the most common buzzwords they used at work. In some cases, it might be more complicated to describe how urgently you need something done when you’re deliberately trying to avoid saying “ASAP” rather than accepting it might have some functional use in your professional vocabulary. According to some experts, the problem with jargon isn’t always that words get overused, it can be that they’re sometimes used in place of substantial conversation or to avoid admitting when you might not know what you’re talking about.
Still, 16 percent of Americans told us they believed using any form of jargon around their offices might hurt their careers.
In case some of these phrases are unfamiliar, we’ve added definitions of some of the most common workplace jargon for your reference
Some of the jargon and buzzwords Americans told us they were hearing most often weren’t full phrases at all, but acronyms or abbreviations being spoken out loud rather than written. Jargon like “LOL,” “ICYMI,” and “TL;DR” (short for “too long; didn’t read”) are generally shortcuts that originated online to help reduce the amount of typing needed to explain or describe something. These abbreviations can occasionally bleed over into the way we communicate verbally.
Other phrases (including “growth hacking”) may be more common in certain departments of your office, making them seem even more out of place when used in regular conversation.
Circling Back to Overused Phrases
Here you can see how Americans rate words and phrases in offices across the country. We asked respondents to score jargon and buzzwords based on how annoying, respectful, and intelligent they thought the word or phrase sounded. As you hover over each word, you’ll be able to see each of the individual scores.
You might notice a few that have slipped into your daily vernacular without you even realizing it. Phrases like “LOL” may seem acceptable online, but they probably shouldn’t have a place in your professional vocabulary. On the other end of the jargon spectrum, sayings like “on my radar”, “pipeline”, “bandwidth”, and “scalable”generated the most positive sentiment and came off as the least aggravating in our list.
A Time and Place for Jargon
When it comes to trying to get your point across at work, jargon may occasionally help you say something more efficiently, or in a way that paints you as someone who’s in the know. Depending on the subject, the context, and even the delivery, some common phrases can come off as more intelligent in the right circumstances.
On the other hand, some words and sayings have probably seen their day. The Americans we polled told us that using abbreviations like “LOL” or “ICYMI” out loud in professional conversation might not land the way you’d like and should generally be avoided.
We hosted four separate surveys to 250 Americans containing different office jargon and asked people to give their perception of the words and phrases as well as how frequently and in what context they use them, if at all.