Editorial: Is informalization taking over the workplace?


If your doctor said “slay!” after completing a procedure, would you keep them as your primary physician? 

There are some contexts where slang is more acceptable than others. And even though informal conversations can make people more comfortable, there is a time and place for this type of word use. 

Most importantly, respect should be at the forefront of all communication.

For example, for doctors or lawyers, whose profession are based on building rapports with clients, professionalism is typically prioritized over familiarity . If a doctor or lawyer uses slang, it may be off-putting to clients, decreasing the desire to work with these professionals again.  

Professionals don’t want to convey incompetence to their co-workers, bosses or clients through their speech. 

But, with Gen Z transitioning into the workplace, there’s been an increase in flexibility, casual attire and more casual language. A study conducted by Barclays LifeSkills examined UK workers and found that 71% of people noticed a change in language within the last five years, attributing the change to Gen Z.

Informal communication can bring about stronger connections between colleagues while providing a more relaxed environment for feedback and open discourse. 

Even though informal language shouldn’t be relied on in the professional world, it can help bridge gaps for those without expertise. We’ve often met with professionals whose jargon is impossible to piece together — which is unfortunate when something like your health is the topic of discussion.  

There is a distinction between speaking casually — using more understandable language — and speaking with a condescending or belittling tone. All people should be treated with understanding and respect, a feat that’s impossible when you’re talking down to someone. 

When people feel seen (or in this case heard) they’re more likely to feel safe asking questions. 

Professionals of any sort should never assume someone is less intelligent because of their use of casual language.

In fact, the use of casual language can actually be a sign of intelligence.

One example is teachers who can translate difficult concepts. Ultimately, effective communicators are effective teachers. If concepts are explained in more familiar terms to students, it can improve their comprehension of the material.

In this case, code-switching can have a beneficial impact.

Similarly, it may be more difficult from students to learn from professors who make their intelligence known but can’t translate it into understandable concepts. An expert in their field who can also teach to their students makes for an all-around better professor. 

We would go as far as to say professors could benefit from the occasional tongue-in-cheek reference or curse word —- just to keep the energy of the classroom active and alive. 

In any career you will pursue, communication skills will serve an important role. At Lehigh, even if you are not enrolled in a class specifically dedicated to communication, there are opportunities in other classes to learn these skills. 

Whether the class requires presentations, participation or group projects, these assignments all contribute to communication skills. It is important to acquire these skills during college, because they will be applicable down the line, whether in personal or professional life.

Communication is a necessity of life humans have to confront. It’s useful to meditate on how we ought to go about it.

We believe smart communication is not delineated by formal and informal speech, but rather by how effective it is.

There are ways in which we can change the implicit expectation of professionalism: not everything needs to be said with verbiage. What is professional, however, is to access different situations with varying levels of degree and care. Informal language has the power to unveil the discrepancies surrounding certain fields in valuable ways. 


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