Attempting to herd cats and get all ducks in a row while boiling the ocean, employees face the challenge of moving the needle in their understanding of workplace jargon. The prevalence of jargon at work can create a barrier that leaves employees feeling "out of the loop" and hinders their ability to actively contribute to discussions.
A recent survey conducted by LinkedIn and Duolingo examined the impact of jargon in workplaces, revealing that 58% of respondents felt their coworkers frequently indulged in jargon, often leaving them perplexed.
Among the most commonly cited jargon phrases were "taking it offline," "running it up the flagpole," and "boiling the ocean," which, though catchy, often led to confusion and miscommunication. Among the surveyed countries, India emerged as having the highest percentage of respondents noting an overuse of jargon in their workplaces.
Hope Wilson, a Senior Learning and Curriculum Manager at Duolingo and an expert on linguistics and intercultural communication, explains that people often resort to using jargon in the workplace to "boil the ocean" and project an identity of business-related authority. However, this practice inadvertently "herds cats" and creates barriers that hinder effective collaboration.
LinkedIn career expert Andrew McCaskill suggests being mindful of colleagues who are new to the workplace and may not be familiar with jargon-heavy language. Instead of using phrases like "let's get our ducks in a row before this meeting," opting for more straightforward and literal language such as "let's get organised before this meeting" can "move the needle" towards better understanding and inclusivity.
Decoding the most confusing jargons
Boiling the ocean: Attempting an overwhelmingly large or complex task, emphasising the need for focusing efforts on more achievable objectives.
Herding cats: Managing a group of independent and difficult-to-control individuals, highlighting the challenge of coordinating diverse team members.
Ducks in a row: Organising and aligning all necessary elements or tasks before proceeding with a project or decision, emphasizing thorough preparation and attention to detail.
Move the needle: Making significant progress or achieving a noticeable impact on a metric or outcome, signifying driving positive change or producing meaningful results.
Take offline: Moving a discussion away from the current meeting or public setting to address it separately or at a later time.
Run it up the flagpole: Presenting an idea, proposal, or decision to higher-level management or key stakeholders for consideration and approval.