In today’s fast-paced, streamlined workplace, buzzwords permeate the landscape … value-add, deliverable, leverage, take it to the next level, it is what it is. And when you get deeper into workplace departments, the jargon gets even more confusing: internet of things, return on investment, total quality management, bleeding edge, capacity planning.
These are just a few prevalent terms now used at work. And while departmental jargon sometimes works well to communicate ideas and goals inside a single business unit, once it crosses department lines, it’s often vague, confusing, and even offensive. Departmental jargon can hurt both internal and external business if it’s misunderstood.
The bottom line: Workplace communication is hard enough without throwing in departmental jargon!
“When everyone is on the same page, it’s so much easier for everyone to do their job,” according to JobMonkey.com. “A failure to communicate is one of the fastest ways to sabotage your business. A simple comment lost in translation … could all be solved through proper communication.”
So how can you “separate the signal from the noise” at work and speak concisely to individuals outside of your area of expertise?
Keep email, chat, text, and video free of jargon
The best way to make sure your message is clear to anyone not familiar with your department’s specific jargon is to not use buzzwords at all. Use clear and concise wording to get your point across. This helps you avoid confusing those not familiar with specific departmental jargon.
Think of it this way: If you were speaking to your mother about a problem at work and she had no idea what your job was, how would you explain it to her? Use this approach regardless of who you are communicating with and the method used, whether via email, chat, text, or video.
Email: Write simple, direct emails
When crafting an email, avoid using jargon. The reason is simple: You don’t always know who will be reading your email. Plus, you can save yourself some time writing it, because you won’t need to explain any buzzwords or concepts that someone outside your department may not understand. This way, regardless of who reads the email, your message will be crystal clear.
For example, you may write: “Management is changing the market dynamics” compared to “the company is acting as a disruptor in the market.” Someone may consider the word disruptor a negative in this example instead of a positive if they didn’t have a full understanding of the term in a business context.
“Emails, like traditional business letters, need to be clear and concise,” according to MindTools.com. “Keep your sentences short and to the point. The body of the email should be direct and informative, and it should contain all pertinent information.”
If you do use jargon in your emails, then make sure to fully explain it.
Chat: Eliminate jargon to avoid confusion
Chat is another area where departmental jargon often causes confusion. Using buzzwords in a business chat with clients or coworkers could cause your message to get lost amid confusing “business speak.”
When a chat involves just your own department, there usually isn’t an issue with communication because everyone understands the same jargon, whether it is about IT, operations, human resources, etc. Problems can occur, however, when a new coworker joins you and isn’t up to speed yet or if individuals from different departments take part in a chatroom conversation and they aren’t familiar with your work or processes.
If everyone spoke in their own departmental jargon, how many communication breakdowns would you expect? More than likely, at least a few.
And what if you speak with one of your customers through a chat program? While you might know exactly what you are trying to communicate, the customer may not fully understand your message, possibly costing you a valuable business opportunity.
Text: Make it clear and to the point
Another communication method most of us have used over the past few years is text. With text communications, it’s vital that you speak simply and clearly. If you don’t, you risk confusing, or worse alienating, the person at the other end of your text.
Just imagine the amount of time it would take to have to explain a complex, jargon-filled text to someone who doesn’t know what you’re talking about. Using simple terms that everyone understands, to begin with, is the best way to get the point of your text across quickly and effectively.
In addition to avoiding jargon while texting, it’s important to follow common text etiquette rules to make sure that your text is easily understood. For instance, avoid using emojis and abbreviations in a work-related text. The people you communicate with are your co-workers and clients, and they require a more formal method of communication.
“The receiver should not be confused as to what you are trying to say, and if your message is interpreted the wrong way, your miscommunication could cause conflicts and even missed business opportunities,” according to Entrepreneur.com. “Make sure your message is clear, and review it for standalone clarity before hitting the send button.”
Video: Instruct or explain using succinct, crisp dialogue
During video calls, both verbal and nonverbal communication are extremely important. It’s also critical that your video communication is clear and concise. Not only can confusion run amuck if you use departmental jargon, it’s difficult to come back after the fact and explain what you meant. Use terms everyone can understand when making your video presentation.
This is especially true for videos meant to educate others in a process familiar to employees who are not in your department. Look at it this way: If you were someone completely new to your department, how would you want something explained to you? Maybe you haven’t had time to pick up on all of the common departmental terms. Think of the confusion that would create. Instead, create a video that avoids that confusion using succinct, crisp dialogue.
The ultimate goal
Departmental jargon is bound to pop up when you work with others in the same field or team. Keep in mind, though, that company leaders, co-workers in other departments, and customers unfamiliar with the jargon might find themselves feeling lost and confused.
Your ultimate goal? Craft clear, concise communications that anyone can understand in order to get your message across each and every time.
Alexa Lemzy is a customer support manager and content writer at TextMagic, a bulk SMS software provider. When she’s not working, you can find her inventing a new pancake recipe in her kitchen or going for a run in the nearest park.