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Why Jargon is Bad For Business

Friday, June 08, 2018

Every workplace has a distinct culture shaped by the dialogue used every day, from the CEO right down to the new hire. In fields where specialty is the focus, particularly healthcare, the military, or police work, acronyms start to replace plain language. While some might think it necessary or even expedient, the use of jargon sacrifices clarity for confusion.

Why eliminate company jargon?

Jargon is language limited to a specific trade or any form of communication that others struggle to understand. If you can’t use a particular term or phrase outside of work, it’s probably jargon.While you might recognize the meaning behind words like “synergy” “circle back” “optimization” and “paradigm” chances are, you’re losing people’s attention or just plain confusing them.

Not all communication shortcuts are good ones.

Here’s what’s at stake if you confuse your team or the customers you serve:

  • Team members misunderstanding your intent
  • Isolating customers or others visiting your workplace
  • Creating an insular culture hostile to newcomers
  • Loss of meaning behind the work
  • Time lost to correct miscommunication

Recently we addressed Elon Musk’s email to Tesla employees working to solve the Model 3 bottleneck in production plants. Musk discussed jargon plaguing workplace communications and called for an end to it:

“Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla.”

As it turns out, Jargon may have a detrimental effect on military veterans landing a job in civilian lifeas one survey by the Society for Human Resource Management suggests.

Jargon is a barrier to employment.

The transition to civilian life has its challenges for military veterans without the added communications hurdles. A poll of human resource professionals conducted in 2012 asked key questions on the hiring of military veterans and found a common struggle among respondents.

44 percent of survey respondents said that efforts to hire military veterans would improve if provided “information about how military skills map to civilian-related tasks.”

In summary, recruiters didn’t understand military jargon on resumes, and that made them overlook veteran candidates for job placements.

Jargon has a cost, and the effectiveness of our companies and hiring practices rely on our ability to clean up our language for everyone who does business with us.

More thoughts on how to eliminate jargon at work

Your next question might be as simple as how do I clean up the language at my workplace? Start small by picking out phrases that are causing cloudiness in your company’s messaging. It could be a commonly used acronym for a process or action that you no longer use.

Make a list of company jargon or acronyms to eliminate. If you’re struggling to know what these are, listen to a webinar your company has recorded or browse your website for terms that would be tough for a 12-year-old to understand. Especially if your industry heavily endorses the use of jargon, you will stand out from the competition for using straightforward terms over meaningless catchphrases.

Send your marketing team off to a workshop or training with a communications expert to come away with precise, effective ways of saying things. Marketing educator and business guru Donald Miller says this when he instructs businesses to clean up their external marketing messages: “If you confuse, you’ll lose.”

As you reflect on your company’s messaging, clear out jargon and make way for new and better ways of saying things. With so many businesses competing for attention in the modern marketplace, the words we choose to represent ourselves matter a lot.

To your excellence in clear communication,
Coach Greg

 
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