‘Blursday’ to ‘extrepreneur’: Gen Z terms meet corp talk – Times of India

Arpit Agarwal neither circles back nor reverts. He responds or gets back to people. He also does not ping or say ‘Cheers’. He schedules calls and says, ‘Have a nice day’. And despite being the director of an engineering and management college that promotes research-oriented education, the 44-year-old won’t be caught encouraging ‘deep dives’ so much as “in-depth or analytical studies”. No wonder in September this year, when his institute reopened to 50 per cent capacity post lockdown, Agarwal was stumped when the word ‘netlag’ floated into his ears for the first time. A young professor had used the term to describe the feeling of not knowing how to react to the real world after being online for a long time.
Netlag, then, could both signify and explain the recent disruption in official exchanges. Even as employees return to hybrid workspaces, their constant toggling between online and offline meetings appears to be loosening and stiffening the tie of management-jargon. If Gen Z colloquialisms ranging from ‘Blursday’ to ‘extrepreneur’ and virtual-conferencing hangovers spanning ‘cheers’ to ‘Zoombie’ are softening the built-in scowls of management argot, imported management buzzwords are adding to its trite redundancies. People who were known as business tycoons, for instance, are now ‘extrepreneurs’ (extreme serial entrepreneurs) and rather than looking into an issue later, the management types are “putting a pin in it”. Given the sheer number of times pins are being put in things or the proverbial “needle” is being “moved”, global business-speak, it seems, is crying for its own anti-jab movement.
“The pandemic altered the cultural fabric and wiring of organizations around the world,” explains Saurabh Singh, senior knowledge advisor at Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) India, citing the explosion of phrases such as ‘polywork’ (having multiple jobs at once) and ‘moonlighting’ (working two jobs at the same time) in India as verbal after-effects of that churn. “As adaptability and productivity of employees went up, the freedom of operating from the confines of our rooms, brought in a sense of openness and casualness not just in our attire but also our behaviour,” says Singh.
Besides the air-fillers spawned by caffeinated online meetings in the last two years, “working with people from different time zones further led to the rise of different phrases,” says Sonya Hooja, COO and co-founder of a professional education firm who stumbled upon ‘Miss Rona’, the new code for the coronavirus in much the same way that she learnt that ‘Blursday’ was the shorthand for indistinguishable days of the week during the pandemic: during a group conversation with Gen Z colleagues. Though she suspects that a lot of pandemic terms that have bled into our everyday vocabulary might outlive the virus, Hooja thinks that “overused” terms such as “360 reviews”, “low-hanging fruit”, “Zoom fatigue” and “quaranteams” are fading out of corporate lexicon.
With organizations eager to embrace inclusivity, mental health issues and social-minded Gen Zers, the language of therapy is colouring HR interactions. “ Human and employee experience has become as important and viable a theme as flexi and hybrid working,” says Singh, who has heard several Indian offices speak of video apps democratizing corporate hierarchies by “bringing everyone together on the same plane” (as in screen) and “providing everyone with the same square foot of visibility” (as in box or the circle where our faces appear). Besides, “allyship” — the role of a person who advocates for inclusion of a “marginalized or politicized group” in solidarity but not as a member — emerged as Dictionary.com’s word of the year in 2021.
Genuine or not, just as tenth graders must now relearn the analog art of longhand before the board exams, it might serve the suits well to share a beverage instead of chasing ‘leverage’. “It’s all about co-existing, learning and adapting in this multi-generational world,” says Singh, whose embrace of the acronyms of millennials and the slangs of younger digital natives such as ‘Wack’ and ‘Yikes’ reflects in the smileys punctuating his mails. “The roads have speech-breakers either way,” adds Singh, who recalls a colleague recently asking him “When are you logging off?” when she meant “When are you going home?” Hashtag Netlag.

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