Moving the needle. Synergy. Ping. Leverage. Piggyback.
If you work in a corporate environment, there’s a good chance you’ve heard (or used) one or more of these ridiculous, overused terms at work. They’re considered business jargon — and people typically use these types of expressions to vaguely describe situations or objectives without adding much thought or true meaning.
Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Group, says in a recent LinkedIn post that some people “love speaking in jargon, using fancy words, and turning everything into acronyms.” But he says you should avoid it because using this type of language in a business context can confuse people and slow things down. It also causes people to lose interest, he says.
“It’s far better to use a simple term and commonplace words that everyone will understand, rather than showing off and annoying your audience,” he writes.
As someone who didn’t understand the difference between “net” and “gross” for many years, Branson says he’s always preferred when financial issues are explained clearly.
Of course, even if you’re straightforward, others may not be. Business slang and technical terms are nearly impossible to avoid in industries like finance and IT. So if you frequently find yourself confused by your colleagues’ corporate speak, utilise the dozens of guides on the Internet to figure out what they actually mean when they say things like, “We need to go after the low-hanging fruit,” or “Let’s circle the wagons.” Or, simply ask your coworkers to clarify.
“A few years ago we were looking into investing money in a financial company,” Branson says. “The person I was talking to said: ‘We only have a 5% bid offer spread.’ Later I asked one of my team what the guy was talking about. He explained how they were using jargon as a way of hiding the fact they were stealing 5% before we even started! Sometimes there are more sinister reasons for using jargon, and it is all too easy to fall foul of these tricks.”
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