How to Talk the Talk: 5 Jargon Best Practices

Can you find all the instances of corporate jargon? Go ahead, give it a try. Just don't jump the shark.

Every org wants to be agile, nimble and KPI-focused. But to your SVP's point, when it comes to demonstrating ROI, would you rather go for the low-hanging fruit or hit critical mass on your win-wins? You may be a direct report, but it's more than likely your boss is still netting (and vetting) your YOY success. Don't make her ask you to take this offline.

If you read the paragraph above and didn't feel like you were sitting in a fluorescent-lit conference room for a biz-dev offsite, then maybe it's time to step outside of your cube. Sometime before EOD and COB. (That means ASAP.)

Workplace Jargon: The Cost of Doing Business?

Whether you work for a small agency, an enterprise-level organization or take business calls in your bathrobe, you've likely encountered some jargon in the workplace. At first you may have found it jarring, but isn't it funny how quickly you begin to pick up the lingo?

Not to worry. Here are five tips to keep your mind sharp and your tongue sharper when it comes to work-related jargon:

  1. Don't feel pressured to use lingo or buzzwords if you're not comfortable doing so. Some people like to use jargon around the workplace because it gives them a sense of propriety and inclusion, but if that's not you, keep your communications simple and direct. For example, don't say you're wrapping up feedback on first creative. Just say you'll be there in a minute.
  2. Don't be ashamed to ask for a definition. My first job out of college was at a post-acquisition media agency, which means it wasn't really an agency anymore; it was part of a larger corporation. Point is, they often said "C-level." (You know, as in C-suite.) But I thought they were saying "sea level." Naturally I assumed that, like me, everyone was just trying to keep their heads above water. 
  3. If you feel you have a great addition to your company's jargon list, go ahead, add it. The best way to do this is to simply throw it against the wall and see if it sticks. For example, if you think "spreadsheeting" is an easier and more efficient way to describe the act of creating new spreadsheets, let your boss know you're going to be late to the brainstorm because of "complications due to spreadsheeting." He’ll understand.
  4. If you want to be a team player, get on the same page with key stakeholders. Don't hesitate to:
    • Ask to be looped in. (Note: you may want to start by simply paying attention in meetings or when all hands are on deck.)
    • Jot down leading jargon and jargon-like phrases.
    • Going forward, start to incorporate said jargon in your day-to-day.
    • If you need clarity, circle back with stakeholders.
    • Find a good jumping-off point, then make your jargon debut: "This may sound like it's coming from 50,000 feet in the air, but…"
  5. Jargon is an acquired skill set, so be careful with tip 4. (I'm not trying to throw anyone under the bus.)

Have you reached your saturation point? If not, take a moment to count the instances of jargon in this post and share your findings in the comments. Better yet, this is an open forum, so toss your own jargon into the mix.