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Picture this. You’re leading a meeting that you feel is going really well. Your fellow team mates, or potential clients, are super engaged and asking the right questions. You’re discussing the roadblocks your business faces and how you can overcome them. Just as you’re about to wrap things up, you say, ‘We should harvest all the low-hanging fruit,’ with a determined smile. Rather than hums of agreement, you face a room of rolling eyes and cringing faces. Not what you’d planned, right? 

Business jargon is a lot like Marmite - you either love it or hate it. And getting it wrong can leave you feeling embarrassed or unprofessional - the last thing you want as a new entrepreneur. While corporate jargon phrases are used all the time, you’ll be surprised to know just how many people can’t stand them, or don’t understand what they mean. 

We surveyed 1,000 UK respondents to find out what they thought about business jargon phrases. With this knowledge, you’ll know which words you should use and which you should definitely avoid when speaking to employees and prospective clients or suppliers, so you can curate the best working environment possible. We’ll circleback around this later (or maybe we should avoid that phrase…)

Using business jargon in the workplace

Corporate jargon phrases - you’ve likely come across them more than you can count, and chances are you use them without thinking twice. Hit the ground running, back to the drawing board, cut to the chase - business jargon phrases are used in the workplace every day, but do people actually like them? Or worse still, do they understand what they mean?

If the phrase going the extra mile is more likely to make you cringe than motivate you, you aren’t the only one. 36% of respondents agreed that they hear too much business jargon on a typical workday. What’s more, 1 in 5 people admitted that they use business jargon even when they don’t know what it means! So if you’re left wondering how an idea can even have legs, you’re not alone.

Often, business jargon is used to make a serious situation or task feel more lighthearted. But this could backfire if your colleagues are left clueless as to what you’re talking about. Considering Gen Z is most likely to make a mistake at work from misunderstanding business jargon, ditching workplace jargon in certain situations may help avoid miscommunication. 

The most liked and disliked business jargon phrases

As a new business owner, creating a positive work culture is crucial for the success of your business and the retention of your employees. After all, your work culture is a reflection of your company values and can create a sense of belonging and engagement among employees. How you speak with employees or potential suppliers can be a reflection of what your business stands for - so it’s important to know which phrases you should use and look to avoid in the workplace for effective business communication. 

Idioms are nothing new, in fact, many of the idioms we use today date back centuries. Spill the beans, for example, meaning to confess or give away a secret, derives from ancient Greece! These everyday expressions are often used without a second thought, but workplace jargon seems to be more divisive.

Out of the 1,000 survey respondents, the most liked business jargon term was ‘call it a day’, with 50.3% of respondents claiming to like it. This isn’t surprising given its nature. Call it a day, meaning to agree to stop doing something, is often used to wrap up a meeting or task. 

Other top contenders for the most liked business jargon were ‘heads up’ with 45.2% of respondents liking the phrase, and ‘get the ball rolling’ with 43.2%. 

When it came to the most disliked business jargon terms, ‘if you don’t like it get off the bus’ came out on top with 41.9% of respondents shaking their heads at the phrase. ‘We’re on a journey’ made 37.4% of respondents roll their eyes, and ‘e-meet you’ was disliked by 37%. 

E-meet you, meaning to meet someone virtually for the first time, may be disliked nowadays due to its now old-fashioned nature. The phrase ‘e-meet’ dates back at least as far as 1991, with the letter e meaning electronically. Considering how far technology has advanced since the ‘90s, it’s not surprising that 37% would prefer to lay the phrase to rest.

The business jargon phrases that are least understood 

In many ways, getting your head around business jargon is a little bit like learning a new language. There’s certainly a difference between disliking a phrase and simply not understanding it, and when it comes to speaking with your colleagues, suppliers or even potential investors, the last thing you want is miscommunication. 

With 23% of respondents admitting they don’t know what ‘low hanging fruit’ actually means, along with 21% of respondents not understanding ‘move the needle’, you may look to avoid these popular workplace jargon phrases. The phrase ‘low hanging fruit’ usually describes doing the simplest things first. You may be surprised to hear that the phrase actually dates as far back as the 17th Century, but was first used as a metaphor in 1968 in a The Guardian article by the poet P. J. Kavanaugh. When it comes to the business world, the phrase is usually used to help guide decision-making towards ‘quick wins’. 

The most liked and disliked email sign-offs

You may pay little attention to how you wrap up an email, but email sign-offs can reinforce the overall tone of your message and leave a lasting impression on the recipient. If you’re looking to maintain a good working relationship with a colleague or supplier, you may want to consider how you’re signing off your emails. 

Keeping things polite but not too formal seems to be most effective, with a simple ‘thank you’ being the most liked email sign-off, with 66.2% of respondents giving it the thumbs up. Other contenders for the top email sign-off were ‘kind regards’ with 63.1% and a short but sweet ‘thanks’ with 58.9%. When it comes to bad email signs-offs you should wave goodbye to, ‘peace out’ was disliked by over half of our respondents (52.8%), as well as ‘TAFN (that’s all for now)’ with 51.3% and ‘TTYL (talk to you later)’ with 50.3%. With this in mind, playing it safe with a polite, to-the-point sign-off may be the best option. 

Case study 

Jarir Mallah is a Human Resources Manager at Ling, a gamified language app managing 45 employees across 12 different nationalities. He explains his views when it comes to using business jargon in the workplace. 

“Jargon can help people feel a part of a community. It can boost people's egos and is important, especially in certain circles. In the world of HR and hiring, I listen for jargon during the interview process. More importantly, I look for candidates to ask questions related to jargon; to clarify what unfamiliar jargon means.

“As a business owner, it may be useful to use jargon in publications, interviews, or articles. Within a close circle of leaders in the same industry would be appropriate. But to walk around and use high-level jargon on a daily basis within the office is unnecessary and may make a business owner come off as arrogant.

“Jargon use shouldn't be stopped, but rather used in appropriate presentations or meetings. Leaders could stop to ask, ‘Do you all know what ____ means?’ If not, make reviewing industry jargon fun by doing a Kahoot quiz for example!”

Tips for communicating effectively as an entrepreneur

As an entrepreneur, how you communicate reflects not only on you personally, but your business and brand. If you’re looking to make a lasting impression and develop strong working relationships, effective business communication is crucial. 

Here are some of our top tips for communicating effectively at work:

  • Question the jargon: Be sure to question if using business jargon is appropriate. For example, using jargon to keep an internal meeting engaging and lighthearted would be more appropriate than the first time you’re meeting a potential client. The last thing you want to do is have a potential client misunderstand you, or worse still cringe at your choice of words!

  • Keep things concise: Always aim for clear and concise language to avoid alienating or confusing your audience. 

  • Be an active listener: Communication works both ways - it’s just as important to be a good listener as it is to be a clear communicator. Active listening allows you to understand others points of view and build strong working relationships.

  • Always authentic: The more yourself you are, the more trustworthy you’ll appear. Be genuine and transparent and you’re sure to build stronger connections. 

  • Try to adapt: Try to be flexible in your communication style so you can easily adapt to different environments and personalities. 

To wrap things up

It’s safe to say that there’s a time and place for business jargon, and using jargon in the workplace can be risky. If you’re looking to maintain strong working relationships and an inclusive work culture, keeping business jargon to a minimum can ensure your colleagues aren’t left confused! Looking for support with your company’s branding and tone of voice? Take a look at our marketplace for professional branding packages to power up your brand communication. 

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