Opinion: I decoded some cringy HR phrases – here’s what employees actually hear

'We're like a family here' – unfortunately, the family is highly dysfunctional and super codependent

Opinion: I decoded some cringy HR phrases – here’s what employees actually hear

HR has historically gotten a bad rep. Seen as the fun police, as the C-suite’s enforcer – someone that only cares about the brand.

But, sometimes, they really don’t help themselves.

Lately, there’s been an uptick in companies using horrendous HR slang – quirky phrases and terms to lure in some much-needed talent. Sadly, this jargon is having the opposite effect. Job adverts and company memos filled with “Be our rockstar” or “We’re like a family here” – it’s turning candidates off before they’ve stepped foot through the door.

According to a report from Slack, 63% of employees say cringy workplace phrases are “off putting”, with 78% of them having to stop themselves from using the jargon in workplace communications.

I love HR and HR leaders (mainly for their inherent sense of fun and a refusal to be taken too seriously). In that vein, here’s an interpretation of some dodgy workplace slang to reveal to HR what employees actually hear – showing why they all really need to stop immediately:

“We’re like a family here” – “We’ll violate your boundaries, ruin your vacations – and at Christmas someone will be drunk/crying.”

“Salary is dependent on experience” – “You must have 10+ years of experience and we’ll be paying you like an intern.”

“Duties may vary” – “You’ll be doing the job of a manager but won’t see seeing any extra in the pay packet.”

“We need a fast learner” – “We’re not going to bother training you at all. Sorry.”

“You’ll need to jump in the deep end” – “Every other employee will dump their extra work on your desk in the first week.”

“We have a fun but very hands-on culture” – “You get a free slice of pizza on Fridays but you will be expected to work through lunch.”

So, what’s the alternative? Well, just be honest. No candidate is expecting to walk into a perfect workplace – there’s no such thing. By all means, highlight your good points, but be honest about the negatives too.

If you’re understaffed, say that the workload will be heavier than normal. If you’re not investing in training right now, explain the budgetary restraints. And if your turnover is high, look at how you’re positioning yourself in the recruitment sphere. At what point in the employee lifecycle do people leave? Is there a pattern there that you’re missing?

Just be real. You’ll end up with a better brand, and attract better people because of it.

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