Gen Z and Millennials don't know what their colleagues are talking about half the time

You want to 'take it offline'? Like, the whole company system? Well, OK then

OK, people, let's engage in some proactive ideation and synergize cross-functionally to leverage our core competencies and maximize deliverables. Let's think outside the box and optimize our bandwidth while aligning our key performance indicators. Remember to touch base and provide visibility on the low-hanging fruit, ensuring we stay on track with our strategic objectives. It's essential to leverage our scalable solutions and adopt a data-driven approach to drive paradigm shifts and achieve our stretch goals. Let's dive deep, drill down into the granular details, and pivot if necessary, all while fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

If that sounds like another language to you*, research by LinkedIn and Duolingo would suggest you aren't alone. Although an unlikely pairing, we've all seen LinkedIn sellouts regurgitating corporate buzzwords to game the algorithm and felt like we need a language learning app to make sense of it all.

The study aimed to root out the worst of workplace jargon, which the authors warn may be "driving a wedge between generations," with almost half (48 percent) of Millennials and Zoomers saying business bullshit makes them feel "less involved."

The survey quizzed 1,016 employees in the UK aged 18 to 76, defining the younger generation as those born between 1981 and 2012 and the elders as 1946-1980. Surprisingly, 69 percent of younglings say their colleagues speak in too much jargon at work, while only 38 percent of graybeards have the same misgivings.

And while Gen Z and pals feel like they're being left out, 54 percent are making a real effort to actually change the way they speak at work – a dark path downwards indeed. In comparison, only 32 percent of oldiewonks admit to doing so, suggesting many of them are already lost.

Sadly, this habit extends to life outside the office too, with 64 percent of Gen Z/Millennials admitting they find themselves using jargon at home. So offer support to your friend who told you they'd "take a beat and circle back" after you asked them if they want to get a drink.

This new language barrier may even have dire consequences professionally. With 60 percent of the young'uns saying jargon sounds like another language, 46 percent admitted that misunderstanding certain terms led them to make a mistake at work.

More than half (54 percent, and twice as much as Gen X/Boomers) have even had to Google a word during a meeting in an attempt to understand what on earth manglement is talking about. Even more shamefully, 83 percent used a word they didn't know the meaning of in a professional situation.

So not only are more senior staff running rings around young employees with their hollow lexicon, but they aren't helping them understand either – 69 percent of younger workers say they had to figure this stuff out on their own.

Charlotte Davies, Career Expert at LinkedIn, commented: "Plenty of people use jargon as part of their everyday language without even realizing it, but for those who are newer to the workplace, learning a whole new set of vocabulary can be frustrating.

"According to the research, there is a perception that those who can get to grips with jargon are more likely to progress at work, with 67 percent of Gen Z and Millennials agreeing. Learning the workplace language can be tough, and we hope that by opening up the conversation, we can help to break down that workplace language barrier."

Dr Hope Wilson, Learning and Curriculum Manager at Duolingo, added: "There's no need to feel ashamed if you use jargon in the workplace, but it's helpful to be aware that these words can cause others to feel confused or left out. When possible, consider other terms that convey the same meaning that have a higher likelihood of being understood by all."

So with the stats out of the way, we're sure you're desperate to know the worst offenders and whether you've ever been guilty of using them non-ironically.

Top most misunderstood workplace jargon phrases

  • COP/EOD – 64 percent 
  • Watchouts – 63 percent 
  • Move the needle – 61 percent 
  • Baked in – 60 percent 
  • Blue sky thinking – 58 percent 
  • Wordsmith – 57 percent 
  • Quick flag – 57 percent 
  • Low hanging fruit – 55 percent 
  • Deep dive – 50 percent 
  • Circle back – 48 percent 

Most frequently used workplace jargon phrases

  • Moving forwards – 20 percent
  • Touch base – 16 percent 
  • Noted – 15 percent 
  • Singing from the same hymn sheet – 14 percent 
  • Reach out – 11 percent
  • Blank canvas – 11 percent 
  • Ducks in a row – 7 percent 
  • Take it offline – 7 percent 
  • Circle back – 7 percent 
  • Double click – 7 percent 

Most annoying workplace jargon phrases

  • Blue sky thinking – 16 percent
  • Low hanging fruit – 15 percent
  • Ducks in a row – 14 percent
  • Move the needle – 13 percent
  • Touch base – 13 percent
  • COP/EOD – 12 percent
  • Watchouts – 12 percent
  • Baked in – 12 percent
  • Sing from the same hymn sheet – 12 percent
  • A quick flag – 12 percent

Most frequently misused phrases

  • Take it offline – 20 percent
  • Watchouts – 19 percent
  • Blue sky thinking – 19 percent
  • Reaching out – 19 percent
  • Closing the loop – 18 percent
  • Touch base – 18 percent
  • Noted – 18 percent
  • In totality – 18 percent
  • Circle back – 18 percent
  • Move the needle – 18 percent

If you need to know what any of these mean, Google is (^) that way. Still, in 20 years' time your boss might be asking you to take a "vibe check" with a client, imploring you to achieve more "Ws" and fewer "Ls", and telling you that your work is "mid." But in the meantime, LinkedIn has a couple of "Nano Tip" courses on how to enhance your corporate communication. ®

*We went to great lengths to make sure this passage meant very little in as many words as possible.

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