Workers commuting in London.
UK workers say their communication has become more casual over the last five years. And they believe that Gen Z is the reason for this. Phrases such as “yours truly” and “yours sincerely” are now considered too old-fashioned, new research shows.
Barclays LifeSkills, an initiative run by Barclays Bank to help young people learn workplace skills, published new research on Tuesday looking at how UK workers feel about the changing nature of language at work.
LifeSkills commissioned Censuswide to survey over 2,000 respondents in August who were aged over 18 and based in the UK for the research.
70% of workers surveyed said they had noticed a change in the way people speak at work over the last five years with 71% believing that it’s because Gen Z is changing the formality of language in the workplace.
Around 73% said their communication style at work has become more casual, as a result.
This is largely reflected in how people are signing off their emails. Phrases like “yours truly,” “yours sincerely,” “to whom it may concern,” “with compliments,” and “respects” are going out of fashion and are likely to become obsolete over the next decade, according to the study.
Over a third of workers considered “yours truly” and “yours sincerely” old-fashioned, but half of the workers felt “thanks so much” was friendly with 46% viewing “thanks!” the same way.
Although phrases like “ta!” – slang for “thank you” – and “hiya,” were also considered friendly, some felt it veered into over-familiarity.
The changing language of emails represents the younger generation’s desire to put their own stamp on things. The research found that 97% of 18 to 24-year-olds surveyed were keen to share their personalities when communicating at work but 40% feel that emails alone won’t cut it.
“Changing norms in the workplace are reflected in the language younger employees use, and the way communication has changed in general,” Dr Laura Bailey, a senior lecturer at the University of Kent said in the study. “Email threads and instant messaging platforms have become blended into ‘conversations’ where formal openings and sign-offs might feel out of place.”
Bailey added: “For the older generation, letter-writing etiquette might be drilled in enough that it is instinctive in any written communication. Whereas for Gen Z, social media has driven linguistic change and sped up the spread of language trends.”
Slang words commonly used on social media platforms like TikTok are also starting to infiltrate the workplace, Insider previously reported. Gen Z is picking up words like “ick,” “naur,” “slay,” and “unserious,” and applying them to professional settings to the dismay of HR professionals and older workers.
However, Gen Z’s desire to use slang at work may stem from their insecurity about being new to the professional world.
Almost half of Gen Z and millennial workers have previously said that traditional workplace jargon like “blue sky thinking,” and “ducks in a row,” makes them feel left out, according to a survey by LinkedIn and Duolingo in June.
Adopting more casual language at work may help Gen Z assert some control and find their way in the professional world.