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Thumbs Down to Management Speak


More than half of UK employees have given management jargon, such as ‘think outside the box’ and ‘the helicopter view’, the ‘thumbs down’, saying it is a problem in their workplace.

According to the poll - conducted by YouGov to mark the 15th anniversary of Investors in People – employees have a low opinion of colleagues who use management jargon. Over a third (39%) of those surveyed think it betrays a lack of confidence and almost one in five (18%) think people who use it are untrustworthy or trying to cover something up.

More worryingly, the research suggests that jargon can create a barrier between managers and their teams. Demonstrating the potential ‘desk divide’, over half (55%) of senior managers think jargon is harmless, whilst four in ten (42%) employees think that it creates misunderstanding about roles and responsibilities. Over a third of employees (37%) say it results in mistrust in the workplace and makes people feel inadequate.

Almost two thirds of employees (60%) would prefer no jargon at all at work, yet, with over a third (39%) saying that its use is on the rise, the problem looks set to grow if left unchecked.

Commenting on the findings, released on the first day of Investors in People Week (6-10 November), Nicola Clark, Director at Investors in People (UK), said: “The research gives bosses an invaluable insight into the impact of management jargon on the workplace. Whilst it can be a useful shorthand at times, managers need to be more alert to when and how they use it.”

Clark added that cutting jargon out of everyday communication would be a challenge, as almost half (48%) of employees that use jargon admitting to using it without thinking.

“Bosses need to lead by example, ditch needless jargon, and concentrate on communicating clearly with their employees,” she added.

Other results from the survey include the following:

• Employees are more likely to experience jargon in larger organisations than smaller ones: fewer than one in five (19%) of people in organisations of 2-49 employees say jargon is used at their workplace while two thirds (65%) of people in organisations with 5,000 or more employees say it is used where they work.
• 52% of people in large organisations (1,000+ employees) say use of jargon is increasing, compared to just under a quarter (24%) in small organisations (2-49 employees).


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