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Jargons are overused terms that make people roll their eyes, tune out, wince or nod off.
Some common words and phrases: "Shift the paradigm." Take a "solution-oriented approach." "Empower your brand" "agile," "actionable" or "the new normal."
Call it corporate speak or business lingo, jargon is ubiquitous in leadership presentations, memos and blogs in every industry. Yet it's counterproductive, especially for managers whose effectiveness depends on being accessible, persuasive and inspiring to employees.
Using terms unfamiliar to your readers or audience can seem noninclusive and even divisive. It's as if a manager is saying: "I know things. You don't know things."
Any communication rife with buzzwords can also come across as disingenuous. What strategy isn't "results-oriented"? When announcing a layoff, no one will be fooled by a memo about "eliminating redundancy." Responding to an employee concern with "We don't have the bandwidth" will be heard as a buzzy, evasive dismissal.
A presentation to employees that they don't understand or that is packed with meaningless phrases is a communication failure.
Using big words does not make you sound smarter, either. In fact, it usually has the opposite effect. You build credibility by connecting with your audience, not by trying to elevate yourself through fancy terms.
A study by Ohio State University researchers found that people were less interested and informed after reading jargon-filled samples—even when terms were defined—than another group reading a plain-language version. When staff glaze over stuffy or pretentious language, managers miss the opportunity to convey their message.
Buzzwords can be the result of laziness. It may be easier to drop a hackneyed term like "synergy" or "value chain" rather than explaining what you mean. But you can improve an empty phrase by adding specifics and nuance.
Remember that "blue sky thinking" will not take you to "where the rubber meets the road."
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