We should all embrace diversity in the workplace. Still, not everyone realizes some of the best practices we should consider to make it a comfortable workplace, especially when communicating verbally and in writing.

While other cultures may be well-versed in your language, they may not have an understanding of some of the jargon/slang we casually use.

It may be OK to use it in your leisure time, but it shouldn’t be acceptable at work unless you are 100% clear your co-workers “get” what you’re saying.

This way of thinking should also include outside vendors and your customers, or clients, as your whole environment should be all-inclusive.

For instance, some employers may use acronyms as a way of looking “in the know,” but if others have no idea what they mean, much could get lost in translation, which leads to a lack of engagement and a feeling of isolation for those who feel left out. Even if a vendor or colleague understands the business, it doesn’t mean they’re also familiar with all slang.

To follow are some examples of slang, which may surprise you, and should be avoided:
  • The elephant in the room
  • Big boy pants
  • Think outside the box
  • Out of pocket
  • Bite the bullet
  • The beauty of simplicity
Other forms of “slang” language have become a habit and can be confusing, such as “dude” or “ghosted.” There are many others, and if you use that vocabulary around other cultures, it may not be slang to them but simply confusing. The same goes with “y’all” or “dude.”
Think of the following scenario. You’re in a meeting, and the leader of the meeting says something like:

I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with this right now. We need boots on the ground to drill down to what the client needs. I need everyone to be crushing it ASAP.”

The phrase should be something like this:

I don’t have the capacity to deal with this right now. We need everyone to help make this happen and find out what the client needs. I want everyone to perform at their best as soon as possible.

Once you decide to improve communication by speaking more professionally, there are some steps you can take to help ensure all employees are on board with this more inclusive direction.

Get all of your employees together in a room and provide actual examples of how specific phrases or words can be confusing. You can accomplish this through role-play and engaging them by asking for their examples. Use this exercise to create awareness, not be a reprimand. Many of us speak using jargon out of habit, and once we’re aware of how it can alienate others, it’s easy to adjust the way we communicate.

Remind them to speak slowly, or at the same rate as the person they are talking to, making for a better conversation.
It’s important to realize that habits can take time to break and ask everyone to hold each other accountable by gently “correcting” a fellow employee when they revert to talking slang. Keep everything positive and light.

If someone uses slang or jargon excessively, document it and bring it up for discussion in their next review. When everyone gets used to speaking the proper language, you will see the difference for employees who will appreciate this effort.

Acronyms to Phase Out
The use of acronyms has moved from just texts to how some speak verbally. We should use our voices to communicate clearly, and the use of the following abbreviated words can be confusing to those who don’t understand what they mean.
LOL (laughing out loud)
BRB (be right back)
OMG (oh my god)

And, it’s almost a form of laziness to shorten a word that you should speak in full. Texting is one thing, but verbal communication shouldn’t be abbreviated.

It will take some time for everyone to get accustomed to dropping the jargon, but unless everyone understands and feels comfortable with it – cut it out. And, the best advice is to make sure examples are set from the top down so that everyone is part of the solution for effective communication.