My colleague sent me this message today:
“Can you grant permissions to Zapier for my Teams account. I’m going to try to see if we can send to the US Slack channel”

There’s no issue with the request or how I would manage it, but when I read this Teams message on my mobile phone, I was wandering down the road to grab some lunch, and it caused me to smile and reflect. On my mind had been how I was going to tribute my mother and mother-in-law this Mother’s Day and as I looked up, I could see the bricks and mortar of my hairdresser across the road and our favourite barista down the hill.

While I don’t presume the mothers, the barista or the hairdresser do not know how to interpret my colleague’s request, it got me thinking about how we communicate in our own business team bubbles. A few months ago, I shared a post about the impact of acronyms and industry-specific terms in the workplace. Essentially, the post covered how isolating it can be for externals or new hires to engage with a workplace that had a particular way of communicating. It warned you to take care of your language in the workplace.

This post is not set to contradict that. I still believe it to be accurate, but my experience today has reminded me that the language we take for granted in our workplace teams should be used to benefit productivity and get operations activity done quickly internally. Of course, we know it might not serve us well as we communicate with customers or others in our business community.

Our business straddles two acronym-rich industries: accounting and technology. Some consultants and change managers would advise us to normalise the language we use because our conversations could be construed as esoteric. However, when operating internally, we do not isolate any individuals on the team, and we bring new team members up to speed when they join. Productivity is something we’re always working on, so we’d notice pretty quickly if we’ve gone too far.

We communicate with our customers using as much plain language as possible. It does not serve us well to presume they will understand the jargon. Some of our customers are tech-focused, others are accounting-focused. In all cases, we must be aware of our audience. It seems obvious, but we all know it doesn’t always work this way.

Suppliers will have their own unique way of communicating. Again, it depends on their industry, awareness of their customer and the expectations set when they first establish a relationship. And so it goes along the business supply chain. While in our team bubbles, we develop a degree of comfort around language, acronyms and how we carry on a conversation. More consideration is required as we hop in and out of the other communication bubbles in our lives.
When you sit down and think about changing how you communicate in your own workplace, remember you must consider the challenges and benefits from the perspective of your staff, teams, customers, suppliers as well as anyone external you need to interact with. If the specific language of the industry or your company does not isolate anyone, you are more likely to be more efficient and productive using esoteric language.

The answer to my colleague’s question? “Yes, sure. Standby…”

Jo Buchanan
Jo Buchanan
jobuchanan@castawayforecasting.com