Bengaluru, 13 June 2023: Whether you’re starting out or looking to advance in your career, understanding workplace language can be confusing and overwhelming. To help alleviate this, LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, and Duolingo, the world’s leading language learning platform, have partnered to uncover new research* that spotlights how professionals feel about workplace jargon and offers tips to help create a more inclusive workplace.
The research found that there is specific jargon that Indians find most confusing in the workplace, with ‘keep me in the loop’ taking the title of most confusing, a term that means “keeping someone informed or updated on a topic”. The other confusing terms include ‘take offline’ (to discuss something away from a virtual to an in-person setting), ‘win-win situation’ (results that are favorable for all the parties involved), and ‘core competency’(capabilities that are one’s defining strength).
Language can cause inequity in the workplace and lead to an opportunity divide. 8 in 10 Indian professionals (81%) believe that workers with a better understanding of workplace jargon are able to get ahead at work (promotions, raises, etc.) more so than those who struggle to understand workplace terms. It’s even more concerning that a disproportionate amount of remote (88%) and hybrid (81%) workers struggle with confusion around workplace jargon, as compared to those who work onsite (74%).
Workplaces are using too much jargon
Whilst some amount of workplace lingo is expected, the research found that 78% of Indian professionals feel that jargon is overused in the workplace, with 34% saying they use it all the time and its part of their vocabulary. In fact, nearly 1 in 3 (30%) Indian professionals often feel overwhelmed by jargon, saying they feel like their colleagues are speaking in a language they don’t understand.
Workplace jargon can also lead to a breakdown in communication and cause confusion with more than half (58%) of Indian professionals saying they have faced a misunderstanding or made a mistake at work because they didn’t know the meaning of workplace jargon or misused it. Gen Z (60%) and millennials (63%) are experiencing this the most. It is no surprise that more Indians (71%) want to eliminate or reduce the use of workplace jargon at work.
Despite that, millennials are found using workplace jargon the most (39%) along with Gen Z (36%), who confess to using it all the time. In fact, 38% of millennials and 35% of Gen Z claim they’re so used to jargon that they barely know they’re using it. That raises the question – what makes jargon such an integral part of workplaces in India? Close to half (43%) of Indians think that people use jargon because it makes them feel professional. A similar share (42%) also say that speaking with jargon makes people feel smarter. Some professionals also see positives in using jargon, with 33% feeling that it simplifies communication or it makes them feel like they’re in the know.
Several professionals think the use of jargon makes people feel like they’re part of a team (43%) and helps build workplace culture (37%). However, on the flip side, more than half (80%) of professionals also feel that they were forced to figure out the jargon at their workplace on their own.
Nirajita Banerjee, LinkedIn Career Expert and India Managing Editor says, “Linguistic habits and preferences vary greatly in India and across the world. So, when you’re working with teams that have different functions, are spread across borders, or come from diverse cultures, it’s crucial to use simpler and more inclusive language so there’s less or no room for misinterpretation. By avoiding too much jargon and using clear language, we create an environment where everyone feels more included, which leads to greater productivity, stronger teams, and positive work culture.”
Karan Kapany, Country Marketing Manager, Duolingo says, “As a language learning app, we recognize the importance of effective communication for personal and professional growth. Our objective in conducting this survey is to explore the impact of corporate lingo, emphasising how miscommunication and unfamiliar jargon can hinder productivity and create a sense of isolation, especially for newcomers. Through this survey, we aim to inform individuals about the various corporate jargon, and its implications and highlight the significance of workplace communication in fostering a more conducive work environment.”
Workplace jargon negatively impacts efficiency, especially among new team members
Professionals commencing a new role are the ones most impacted by workplace jargon. 37% of professionals say figuring out the meaning of jargon in their workplace made them feel left out of conversations. This process becomes stressful for many professionals (31%) and also slows down their productivity (34%). A majority of Gen Z (85%) and Millennials (82%) feel they’ve been left to their own devices with regard to workplace jargon at their most recent jobs.
To help professionals navigate workplace jargon, LinkedIn is offering free LinkedIn Learning courses such as Communication and cultural differences, Foundations of Communication, Why authentic communication matters, Nano Tips for communicating with Confidence, Nano Tips to Enhance Your Communication, and Nano Tips for Developing Magnetic Charisma that are available for free from 13 June to 13 July 2023, to help professionals get a better understanding of effective communication in the workplace.
LinkedIn and Duolingo’s tips for navigating workplace jargon:
- Ask questions: The majority of professionals find workplace jargon confusing so don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions. Work shouldn’t have to involve solving riddles. You should feel more than comfortable asking questions that enable you to get your work done the right way.
- Be considerate: If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, using workplace jargon might be second nature to you. Think back to your first day at a new job – sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. Be mindful of this learning curve to help professionals of all backgrounds and levels feel included and understood.
- Keep it simple: While every workplace has its unique culture and terminology, do your best to keep the language simple. For example, instead of “Let’s get our ducks in a row before this meeting” try replacing it with simpler language like “Let’s prepare and get organised before this meeting.” Simplifying language at work helps create an equitable culture and fosters inclusivity.