Lost in Translation : Corporate Jargon

Written by Sakina Shabbir

As a Senior Projects Lead, Sakina finds Project Management an incredibly exciting and a colossal professional field. When she isn't taking care of translating customers; she enjoys reading, traveling and baking.

The Oxford describes “Jargon” as special words, or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.

When this comes to the Corporate industry or Workplace, it’s often known as ‘Corporate Lingo’ or ‘Corporate Buzzwords’.

I recollect being so overwhelmed at all the unfamiliar things I had to learn as a newbie. There were so many processes/procedures to keep track of, and people and departments to keep in mind! Every time I heard a new term or phrase, I’d ask someone or google it like most of us do.

The Common Vernacular

In order to give you a more insight to the subject I’m referring to, let’s look at some of the most commonly used phrases at a workplace.

  • Touch Base – To meet or talk about a Specific Issue
  • No - Brainer – Claiming that something is an irrefutably good idea
  • Game Changer – A product, idea or process that represents a significant shift in thinking or way of doing things.
  • Blue sky thinking – Creative thinking not grounded in reality
  • Let’s get our ducks in a row – To align a team or multiple parties in preparation of an event or discussion

We’re all guilty of using these Buzzwords.

We humans aggregate into groups, we tend to develop new glossary that is specific to our group context. Wizards complain about “Muggles”, high school-ers aspire to “Squad Goals”, singles fancy “Couple Goals” – and occasionally a mid level manager tells you to “Shift the Paradigm”.

In recent years business jargon has somehow evolved into a tangled mess of annoying, pretentious, tired clichés that are more effective at obscuring than clarifying meaning.

As a matter of fact, Forbes is holding a “Jargon Madness” bracket to track what readers think is the most obnoxious, useless and just plain lame corporate expressions.

But beyond being obnoxious, why is Jargon so bad?

The Untold Truth

Glassdoor, one of the largest job sites, has come up with four ways to ensure you don’t come across as the office ‘jargon junkie’.

1.     Don’t overuse buzzwords in an interview or a meeting – It’s easy to want to mimic a language in order to fit in, but make sure you understand your lingo before throwing it in.

2.     Study the language – Look around and see, does your workplace or company have language quirks?

3.     Don’t fill your CV with Jargon – Remember you are looking for a job, not branding yourself.

4.     Remain respectful – Don’t be tempted to be over-friendly with an interviewer or client or even new colleagues. Slang might not be well received on your first rendezvous.

The usage of Jargon comes across as the very opposite of sounding informed. Which is kind of ironic and unfortunate, considering most people pull out the jargon to sound smart, in-the-know and high level.

An interviewer might wonder if you actually performed any of the functions based on the skills you added onto your resume since you can’t talk plainly, your boss might think you’re exaggerating the process and your co-workers – they’ll just flat out want to kill you.

According to Forbes, below is the list of no-no words -

  • Buy - In
  • SWAT Team
  • Open the Kimono
  • You are googling these, aren’t you? :D
  • Think Outside the Box
  • Best Practice
  • Bleeding Edge
  • Take it to the next level
  • Peel the Onion
  • Move the Needle
  • Unpack the Problem

And the list goes on!

How often have you found yourself using the Corporate Jargon? Are you guilty of using it? Please comment below and let me know.

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