workplace manners

Why you should cool it with the corporate jargon

September 28, 2011: 10:24 AM ET

Life in corporate America is riddled with office speak, acronyms and other crimes against language. But there are a host of reasons to steer clear of insider lingo.

By Laura Vanderkam, contributor

FORTUNE -- Could this conversation happen in your office?

"The CST is writing an LOP by EOD."

"We don't have the bandwidth for that now."

"Yeah, but think about the ROI!"

For many white-collar types, the answer is a grimace-inducing yes. Life in corporate America is riddled with jargon, acronyms and other crimes against language. We make fun of them -- filling white boards with the worst examples -- then go right back to talking about "onboarding" someone, as if we're starring in our very own Dilbert cartoon.

Why do we do it?

"There's an internal pride of having your own little language," says Michael Crom, executive vice president and chief learning officer at Dale Carnegie Training, which runs training sessions for companies to help employees communicate and perform better. People like to think, "I know something the outsiders don't know," he says. Especially in a harsh economy, it's nice to feel like you're part of a tribe of people who've got your back; people who speak in the same tongue as you.

But while ripping off a string of acronyms at a weekly staff meeting seems harmless enough, communication experts warn against giving into the temptation, even with co-workers. Here's why:

1. You probably hired someone in the last six months.

Unless your new hires go through a hazing ritual where you explain all your company's acronyms and phrasing quirks, they can be in the dark for a while, even if they use the acronyms themselves. Think about it -- you use the "cc" function on email every day, and yet how many people under age 30 know what it means? (Carbon copy, ask your parents). The biggest problem for a manager is that there's a chance that your new hires will be too embarrassed to ask you to explain. More

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