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Right Language Drives Workplace Positivity



February 2013
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Over the years, beginning from the Industrial Revolution in England till date, as the corporate industry grew, so has its workplace environment. Workplace environment has inevitably played a critical, vital and a decisive role in the growth of both, the company as well as its employees. Now while a lot of factors partake in the evolution of workplace milieu, language has inescapable dominated the scenario.

WHY? Well, employee growth and productivity, as we know does not just materialize from top-notch company status, sky rocketing salaries or lined up promotion, but primarily from ‘work satisfaction’. If the employee does not feel important in his company, does not receive respect and a consideration of being a ‘human’ and not a machine, his productivity and eventually the company’s growth is bound is witness a downfall.

In the light of this scenario, several studies have identified some regressive-redundant corporate jargon and have suggested their progressive humane argots.  Just as we use the word ‘differently-abled’ instead of ‘handicapped’! Here are a couple of them worth employing!


During appraisals, the term ‘weakness’ should be avoided to indicate an imperfection or a flaw. This negative term dampens the confidence of the employee. Leading to de-motivation, the employee’s self esteem falls reducing their productivity, making him/her further incompetent.

On the contrary, ‘Areas of Development’ renders a hope of improvement and instills confidence. The employee tends to work more efficiently on their flaws.


Surprisingly, though ‘employee’ is not technically a negative term, the term ‘colleague’ be rather used. Everyone, from the CEO down is an ‘employee’ of the company who gets paid to do their job and this term does not entail any sense of equality. However, the underlying message still drives an hierarchy while ‘colleague’ suggests that all employees are at the same level. Let there be an hierarchy implication only when the situation calls for!


We know that ‘crisis’ is an unstable situation of extreme difficulty. Hence, such a situation is accompanied with panic and stress! This leads to creation of an anxious and commotion-filled atmosphere in the organization, which in turns brings no solution (rather it worsens it!)

Replacing ‘crisis’ with the term ‘contingency action plan’ helps for it refers to an alternative strategy that is applied in serious times. It captures the intensity of the situation, provides a sense of security and direction and leads to some productive work, in comparison to just panic and cry!


Irrespective of the role they play, each and every employee contributes to the success of the organization. No task, however trivial should be overlooked and unaccounted. A more human and progressive word for employees that carry out basic errands is ‘support staff’.

Note that top front-line tasks would take a lot longer while to complete with equal efficiency without the support of this support staff!

Similarly, it’s appropriate to use ‘WORKFORCE’ than ‘Workers’


The terms ‘lay-off’ or ‘retrenchment’ infuse a sense of insensitivity of the company towards its employees, who have till date supported and contributed to the growth of the company. It ends up causing anguish and discomfort amongst employees.

While this downsizing would be important for the top management, using the right language to convey can not only solve the purpose, but solves the purpose humanly and peacefully. Words like ‘right sizing’ or ‘restructuring’ helps provide a sense of organization’s motive to reframe itself.


In a corporate environment where people work for personal and professional growth of both themselves and the company, the word ‘training’ should be better replaced with ‘learning’.

Over the years, the importance of training has fluctuated providing a stereotype of boring lectures. Let training be better used for animals who apply the learning situation-specifically and ‘learning’ for humans who can grasp the given skill set and also apply the same ubiquitously.


Again, the word ‘demotion’ suggests a tone of failure, pulling down the confidence levels in the employee. It has been a corporate parlance since years now. However, the term ‘role restructuring’ tends to be a more appropriate way of suggesting incompetency in a particular job profile.

Likewise, the word ‘Line Manager’ can replace the word ‘Supervisor/Boss’, ‘collaboration’ replaces ‘team management’, ‘feedback’ replaces ‘critique’, etc.

Let us hence, EMPOWER (not ‘encourage’) our workplace environment with positive terminologies and aim at ENHANCED (not ‘better’) surroundings!


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