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Gen Z is Bringing Casual Language to the Workplace, Shifting Workplace Communication Norms

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The Rise of Casual Language in the Workplace, Led by Gen Z

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, offices have witnessed a significant shift towards a more casual environment. This transformation is not limited to workwear and flexible hours; language at work is also becoming less traditional. Recent research from Barclays LifeSkills reveals that 70% of Brits have noticed changes in workplace language over the past five years, with 73% stating that communication has become less formal. Gen Z, defined as individuals aged 18-24, is at the forefront of this linguistic shift, with 71% of respondents crediting younger workers for the change.

The Impact on Written Communication

The study highlights that written communication is one area significantly affected by this shift. Traditional email sign-offs such as 'Yours truly,' 'Yours sincerely,' and 'To whom it may concern' are expected to disappear from the workplace within the next decade. Similarly, phrases like 'With compliments' or 'Respects' are also likely to become extinct. These outdated phrases are being replaced by more casual alternatives. Phrases like 'Thanks!' and 'Thanks so much' are gaining popularity, with 46% and 50% of respondents considering them friendly responses.

Divisiveness of Casual Phrases

While some casual phrases are widely accepted, others are more divisive. For instance, the shortened form of 'thank you,' 'ta!' is viewed as over-familiar by 29% of respondents but friendly by 23%. Similarly, 'hiya' is seen as friendly by 42% but over-familiar by 26%. The use of such phrases requires careful consideration of the recipient's perception and the desired level of formality.

Changes in Communication Methods

The shift in language is not limited to the words used but also extends to the communication methods employed. Nearly half (49%) of Gen Z frequently use instant messaging platforms at work, while only 27% of individuals over 55 do the same. The older age group still prefers email, considering it a more professional method of communication. This change can be attributed to the emergence of workplace messaging platforms, where formal openings and sign-offs may feel out of place.

Generational Differences and Language Evolution

Laura Bailey, a senior lecturer in English language and linguistics at the University of Kent, explains that the shift towards a more casual tone aligns with the rise of workplace messaging platforms. Different age groups have been exposed to varying communication styles, influenced by changing language trends disseminated through social media. Traditional letter-writing styles, familiar to older workers, can be adapted to any form of written communication. However, younger individuals have embraced evolving language styles shaped by social media. In conclusion, the workplace is experiencing a transformation in language usage, with Gen Z leading the charge towards a more casual tone. As the definition of office-appropriate language remains in flux, it is crucial to strike a balance between friendliness and professionalism. Considering the recipient's preference and choosing the most appropriate communication method are essential in navigating this linguistic evolution.

Conclusion: Implications for New Businesses

The shift towards casual language in the workplace, led by Gen Z, presents both challenges and opportunities for new businesses.

Adapting to Changing Communication Styles

New businesses must adapt to evolving communication styles to foster a positive and inclusive work environment. This includes embracing more casual language and understanding the preferences of different age groups.

Striking a Balance

While casual language can foster a more relaxed and collaborative environment, it's crucial to strike a balance. Overly casual language may risk undermining professionalism. Businesses should establish clear communication guidelines to ensure a positive and respectful workplace culture.

Embracing Technology

The rise of instant messaging platforms in the workplace, particularly among Gen Z, signals a shift in communication methods. New businesses should leverage these platforms to facilitate efficient and effective communication. In conclusion, the rise of casual language in the workplace, led by Gen Z, is transforming workplace communication. New businesses must adapt to these changes, striking a balance between casualness and professionalism and leveraging technology to facilitate communication. By doing so, they can foster a positive work environment that resonates with all generations.
Story First Published at: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/09/14/language-at-work-is-becoming-more-casual-thanks-to-gen-z.html
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