12 Apr 2012

The secret world of workplace terminology and language

What kind of terminology is specific to your work place?

When you start in a new company, there are a great variety of things that you have to learn quickly; people’s names, where things are, how things run, what’s expected of you. But perhaps one of the most important things to pick up fast is the vocabulary. The special way of speaking that is unique to your industry/company/department. Particularly in IT, terminology can be a daunting and formidable landscape, and can leave people behind and in the dark. It also has the power to bind people together, helping to shape messages and intended communication. Effective use of jargon, and being able to quickly pick up new terms, is the key to ensuring your company has the best form of communication.

What should you do when you’re new to the company or industry?

As obvious as it sounds, it’s important to ask questions. It might be tempting to try to look up new words later, or work out acronyms as you go. But the truth is that sometimes new terminology can be so extensive and encompassing, that it’s impossible to learn everything on your own. If you quickly stop the conversation and ask for clarification, you will find that most people are more than happy to share their expertise, and may then remember to make sure you are in the loop with the future terminology that they use. Just a few short weeks of feeling a little silly will leave you from being completely lost for a lot longer. Another key point to remember is that it’s best not to assume. Some acronyms that are used internally have completely different meanings in the outside world, so being completely sure is always the best policy.

Have you ever found it difficult to learn new terminology?

 How can you help customers, new employees and non-industry people pick up the ‘language’?

In some cases, limiting the jargon you use is the best course of action. In particular, when dealing with some customers and non-industry people who have no long-term use for this specific terminology, it is preferential to keep the technical talk to a minimum.

On the other hand, new employees and the like will need to learn the jargon to be will equipped to navigate the workplace.  In this instance, it’s important to clearly outline any terms or acronyms that will be used that the person is unlikely to have encountered before. Specifically mention these, and give the best definition possible. But even more importantly, it is imperative that you make it clear it is okay to ask questions. Reassure the employee that they are not expected to pick everything up at once, and that you understand it will take some time to get their head around everything. In some cases, companies even have websites created to explain the acronyms used in their workplace.

How do you make jargon accessible to new people?