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Over the last few hundred years the English language has change dramatically from the Shakespearean Queen’s English to our current day slurred and condensed, LOL’ing slang sublanguage.
Slang, or “shortened language,” has become so commonplace that in some instances we don’t even realize we’re using it.
Slang such as “dude” or “man” float around corporate America like it’s somehow become part of professional vernacular. If you’re in Northern California or the Southern US states you might even find a “hella” or “y’all” thrown in there. If you’re a heavy texter I’m sure you’ve let a few “foshos” or “totes” fly when concluding a management meeting.
While all of these different types of slang may have different origins, all of them have one thing in common: they can be viewed as unprofessional. When it comes to slang in the workplace, we’ve compiled a few tips to keep in mind before you start “abbrev-ing” with the boss.
BE CONSCIOUS OF THOSE AROUND YOU
New on the job? Before dropping any regional lingo, it might be a good idea to open your ears and be cognizant of how people in the office speak with one another. Listen to your boss and coworkers. Use the first week or two on the job to gain a sense of the office demeanor and try to understand the true nature of the company’s culture.
Some companies may encourage more professional language when in a meeting or when speaking with a client, but be completely ok with slang when working in small teams.
Alternatively, a company could try to use slang in the workplace to build relationships with new hires, but falls back to its professional conversations over time. Follow your co-workers leads when it comes to slang. Playing it safe won’t make you uncool, but it will ensure you don’t misstep while you’re trying to learn and excel at a new position. Be conscious of those around you and follow the established decorum.
DON’T OVERDO IT
Even if using slang is commonplace in the office, it doesn’t mean you should treat every conversation like a tweet or text. Make sure you are still acting professionally and can transition out of using slang if the need arises. Using colloquial language too often can sometimes become a hard habit to break. If you find yourself having a hard time not saying “y’all” or “dude,” it might be time to go cold turkey. An occasional casual conversation won’t affect your professional reputation, but don’t overdo it.
REASSESS OVER TIME
Just like slang changes over time, so too does whether or not its appropriate to use in the workplace. If your company is growing or shrinking, you need to be aware of any culture changes. Reassess the situation over time and be aware that what was once appropriate may no longer fit. Don’t lose sight of the fact that an organization evolves and get left behind in outdated practices.
EMAIL IS DIFFERENT
Email is an entirely different situation. While slang in the workplace can sometimes be appropriate for conversation, email at work should also be proper and professional. Take the time to spell out words and use correct grammar. You never know who will read your email, and you open your message up to interpretation the more you use slang and vague references. Each person’s definition of casual is different, so make sure you follow the most professional path to avoid crossing a line.