Is Jargon Bad for Your Business?

Is Jargon Bad for Your Business?

by Dr. Rick Goodman on July 26, 2017

Over time, teams tend to develop their own vocabulary—their own shorthand. This is a natural occurrence, but it’s not always beneficial—especially not when the company’s internal lingo becomes cluttered with jargon; and then, when that internal lingo spills over into dialogue with customers.

What are some examples of modern-day business jargon? I’m thinking of phrases like incentivize. Ideate. Sales funnel. Deliverables. Paradigm. The buzzwords at your business may be a little different, but you get the idea.

The Problem with Jargon

To be clear, I’m not saying these turns of phrase are “bad.” What I’m saying is that, when your internal communication hinges on these buzzwords, it can be alienating not just to potential customers, but also to new members of the team, who may find this language to be impenetrable.

Something else to consider is that, when it’s abused and overused, business jargon can defeat its original purpose. Often, these words make their way into company culture to help describe abstract situations, and to provide the team with a common vernacular. The problem is, the meaning of these words can drift over time, and they can lose the power of their specificity. A word like actionable can very quickly come to mean different things for different people.

One more point to consider: When you use jargon in a presentation to your peers or to potential clients, it can make you come across as insecure—like you’re trying to use “big words” to mask your small ideas. And that’s never the impression you want to give.

The Solution for Jargon

The question, then, is what can your business do to minimize the (mis)use of these buzzwords? I have a simple yet effective tip: Develop the habit of probing deeper. Ask why and what do you mean in your meetings, in email chains, and anytime you hear another member of your team using jargon.

To put it a little bit differently: Develop a culture that challenges vagueness, and seeks clarity and precision in its communications. Maybe your team members won’t stop using words like deliverable over night, but they can become better at explaining precisely what they mean—and that specificity will be a huge asset as you communicate with customers and clients.

It’s worth taking stock of your own company’s reliance on jargon—and taking small steps toward a more straightforward communication style.

Dr. Rick Goodman CSP is a thought leader in the world of leadership and one of the most sought after conference keynote speakers on leadership, engagement, and business growth in the United States and internationally.

He is the author of the books Living A Championship Life “A Game Plan for Success” and My Team Sucked “10 Rules That Turned Them Into Rock Stars.” He is also the co-author of the book Jamie’s Journey: Travels with My Dad, written with his sixteen-year-old daughter Jamie.

Dr. Rick is famous for helping organizations, corporations, and individuals with systems, strategies, and solutions that encourage engagement, resulting in increased profits and productivity without having the challenges of micromanaging the process. Some of Dr. Rick’s clients include Heineken, AT&T, Boeing, Cavium Networks, IBM, Hewlett Packard, and Franklin Templeton Investments.

You can contact Dr. Rick at or call 888-267-6098.

Dr. Rick GoodmanIs Jargon Bad for Your Business?