Is Industry Lingo Affecting Your Communication?

Oct 31, 2019 | Leadership

​​Every industry has its own lingo. These specialized words and expressions are spoken and understood freely among people who have been around for a while, but they may complicate communication for others. Here are a few examples:

  • In retail and convenience stores, you may be asked to “face the shelves,” meaning to arrange items on shelves so products are appealing and organized.
  • In the restaurant industry, you may have an “86’d” item when the kitchen or bar runs out of something.
  • In leadership, you may be asked to come up with an idea to “boil the ocean,” or accomplish something that seems impossible.
  • In training, you may need to find the “WII-FM,” which is the value of a training topic for the learner who asks “what’s in it for me?”

It’s okay to use industry lingo with people you know will understand it. In fact, sharing a secret language with your team may even build camaraderie and commitment. However, you should avoid using industry lingo when communicating with these groups:

  • New employees. Starting a new job is stressful enough without feeling like you’re in a foreign country. Take the time to train new employees on industry lingo by making it part of your orientation program. Instruct new hire mentors to help employees understand the different meanings behind certain terms, both as they apply to the industry in general and your business specifically. As new employees become more comfortable with your lingo, they’ll feel more connected to the team and the industry.
  • English-as-a-second language speakers. The English language is tricky enough as it is. When you introduce idioms, expressions, and industry lingo into the mix, people who are learning the language may at best be confused and, at worst, misguided. It’s okay to introduce specialized jargon to ESL speakers, but do it slowly and with easy explanations.
  • Your customers. Industry lingo has no place in your marketing or customer communication. Your goal with customers is to become part of their story, not force them into yours. Along these lines, don’t try to use your customer’s jargon unless you’re sure you understand it. Think of industry lingo as a privilege, not a right.

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