Bonding with words or why your team needs a common language
Engagement 4 minute read

Bonding with words or why your team needs a common language

Rise | November 19, 2020

A common language for teams means looking at any jargon, lingo, or slang terms that employees use, and ensuring that they are understood by everyone. This might mean creating a company dictionary of sorts, so no one feels like they don’t understand certain conversations.

Communities—whether they form around a hobby, opinion, or profession—often share a common language, known as a lexicon, word-stock or lingo. 

In this common language, certain words or phrases take on additional layers of meaning that everyone in the group understands—but outsiders usually don't. 

For example, “proofing” has one meaning to a copy-editor and a completely different meaning to a baker. Anyone familiar with modern slang knows that something that’s “sick” is actually cool. 

With employees continuing to work remotely from home, new hires might struggle with learning the lexicon of your organization—which can affect their sense of belonging and might cost you a good employee. 

Continue reading to learn how you can help all employees, new and old, understand your company’s common language. You'll also find out why you should include a company catchphrase into your lexicon. 

A team or company’s jargon often evolves from the need to quickly communicate information. 

For example, the phrase “let’s take this offline” is generally said in person, not online, and means that the topic at hand should be “tabled” (meaning postponed) for another time. It’s a succinct way of saying “The current topic isn’t relevant and I don’t think we should spend more time discussing it right now.” 

You may have also heard the expression “make hay”, a shortened form of “make hay while the sun shines”. Often used as a call for productivity, it means to make the most of an opportunity.

And there’s the famous “best laid plans” proverb, which is a reminder that no matter how carefully a project is planned, something can still go wrong. It originates from the poem “To a Mouse”, penned by Scottish author Robbie Burns in 1785, which tells the story of a mouse’s nest destroyed by a plow. 

Establishing a common language means using language that everyone can understand, but also ensuring that any insider lingo is explained. 

“Let’s take this offline,” “make hay” and “best laid plans” are examples of common business lingo that most native speakers know—or a quick Google search can explain. 

However, your company’s common language probably contains expressions that come from past projects or inside jokes. Therefore, it’s essential to establish a company-wide glossary that explains the lingo and helps new hires quickly “get up to speed”.  

To begin compiling your glossary, first take inventory of phrases that your employees use internally. You can use Google Forms or create a poll on Slack to gather intel.  

Once you have a list, ask several people from different departments to offer a definition for each word or phrase. This will help you confirm if the expression is tied to a single department or if it's part of the company’s common language. 

Your company’s common language reflects your company culture and reinforces your values. When understood by everyone, a common language can help employees feel more connected to your brand. 

Catchphrases, or mottos or taglines, help transform organizations into household names. “Have a magical Disney day”, “Just do it”, “Redbull gives you wings”. The examples are countless. 

Companies invest tons of resources into establishing the meaning behind these mottos or taglines in the public consciousness. It’s just as important—if not more so—to do the same thing internally. 

Want everyone aligned? Start with how you speak.

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