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Work jargon isolates younger employees

Jargon like ‘blue-sky thinking’, ‘low-hanging fruit’ and ‘ducks in a row’ makes 48% of Gen-Z and millennial workers feel less involved in the workplace according to research from LinkedIn and language learning app, Duolingo.

The research also found almost half (46%) of younger workers said not understanding jargon had caused them to make a mistake at work.  

Over half (54%) of younger employees changed the way they speak to fit in, compared with 32% of older workers (Gen X and baby boomers). 

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Half (54%) of younger workers also admitted to secretly looking up a word in a meeting to keep up with discussion, while 83% used a word they didn’t understand in a professional situation. 

Charlotte Davies, career expert at LinkedIn, said younger workers find jargon frustrating and struggle to ask what it means. 

She said: “Plenty of people use jargon as part of their everyday language without even realising it, but for those who are newer to the workplace, learning a whole new set of vocabulary can be frustrating.  

“Learning the workplace language can be tough, and we hope that by opening up the conversation, we can help to break down that workplace language barrier.” 

Lyndsey Simpson, CEO of age strategy consultancy 55/Redefined, said jargon can exclude workers from all age groups. 

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “While management-speak and jargon has been around since the over-50s have been in the workplace, it continues to evolve in ways that can leave people feeling excluded.   

“As companies face continued pressure to build multigenerational teams to be able to resource their staffing requirements, terms such as ‘digital native’ or ‘growth hacker’ can easily alienate large pools of potential (older) candidates.” 

Jargon can also be a barrier to recruitment, as 51% of hybrid employees in the UK said overuse of ‘workplace jargon’ in a job advert has put them off applying. 

Simpson said HR should consult their teams on language in job advertising to test if it is accessible. 

She said: “If you are in an organisation that does include multigenerational teams, there’s no better test than asking the employees themselves to review and evaluate the language being used.  

“It can form part of a wider conversation on ageism, diversity and inclusion, identify further learning and training opportunities and help signpost how to effectively tackle the challenges that exist.” 


The five most frequently used workplace jargon phrases are: 

  1. Moving forwards - 20% 
  2. Touch base - 16%  
  3. Noted - 15%  
  4. Singing from the same hymn sheet - 14%  
  5. Reach out - 11% 

The five jargon phrases employees find most annoying are: 

  1. Blue-sky thinking - 16% 
  2. Low-hanging fruit - 15% 
  3. Ducks in a row - 14%  
  4. Move the needle - 13% 
  5. Touch base - 13% 

The five phrases people use most but don’t understand are:  

  1. Take it offline - 20%  
  2. Watchouts’ - 19%  
  3. Blue-sky thinking - 19%  
  4. Reaching out - 19%  
  5. Closing the loop - 18%  


The survey was conducted by Censuswide on 1016 employed respondents in the UK, aged 18-76, between 12 and 26 March 2023.