With millions of workers set to return to the office this fall, workplaces are going to be welcoming a sizable cohort of Gen Z workers who came of age during the pandemic—and they’re bringing their own slang with them.
In a remote setting, language barriers were fairly easy to navigate with the safety net of Google (or rather, Urban Dictionary). But as conversations move from online to in-person, it’s going to be impossible to subtly search the definition of cozzie Livs when talking to younger staff members.
Just as research has shown that corporate jargon is isolating young workers because they don’t know the meaning of phrases like “deep dive”, it won’t be long until Gen X managers feel left out of watercooler chats with their 20-something workers.
“Lack of familiarity with Gen-Z slang could potentially lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretations, hampering effective communication,” Jessica Kelly, CEO of the corporate wellbeing company Meet Your Mind tells Fortune. “It could also create a generational divide, making it harder for different age groups to collaborate effectively.”
So, here’s the list of some terms Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) told Fortune they’re currently using which older generations ought to know—if they don’t already.
Like many of the words on this list that Gen Z are bringing to the workplace, “slay” isn’t exactly new. The compliment can loosely translate to “killing it”—and has been widely by Black people and the LGBTQ+ community for decades but has now entered the vocabulary of young people via TikTok.
If you have had a stressful day, sent the wrong email to your boss or missed your train to the office, you might have a “menty B”—or rather a mental breakdown. The new light-hearted term is being used more for minor stressful situations, than the very serious get-signed-off-work type.
The cost of living crisis is affecting every household in the U.K., with energy bills, food, rent, and interest rates spiraling. Youngsters in the country are currently affectionately referring to the current economic backdrop as the “cozzie livs”.
That slaps / Hits different
If something slaps, it’s very good. The term originally came from the Hip Hop scene to describe a hit, but today people are using it to describe everything from their food to their work. For example, “The video you edited slaps; I’ve watched it three times already.” Similarly, if something hits different it means it’s better than expected.
This essentially refers to someone doing a great job. If a peer smashed a presentation at work, you might say “they ate that”. Or for a job extra well done you could say, “they ate and left no crumbs.” Impressive items can also eat too, for example, “those jeans eat”.
Understood the assignment
This saying pretty much says what it is on the tin: Someone who understood the assignment got the task at hand and is excelling. For example, “Chris’s pitch won the clients over, he understood the assignment.” It can also be used when someone’s outfit is perfect for the occasion—like Princess Diana’s infamous revenge dress, she understood the assignment.
Again, say less has been used for some time as an alternative to “say no more” by Black people but Gen Z has recently popularized the term. You’d use this to confirm to your coworkers “I’ve got it, you don’t have to say anymore” when they’re breaking down a task, for example.
This is the Gen Z equivalent of LOL (laugh out loud, for those who still think the acronym means lots of love). If you watched a video you found hilarious, you could say “that sent me”. You can even spice it up by elaborating a little further, for example “that sent me into orbit” (aka it sent you so far, you ended up in space).
The term “it’s giving” (usually followed by a description, like “innocent intern” or “boss vibes”) refers to when something or someone is emitting a particular vibe. Be warned: this can be used in both a positive or negative sense.
Core is a suffix that is being used to categorize a type of aesthetic. For example, #cottagecore is extremely popular on TikTok and it’s being used to highlight everything from what someone who lives in the countryside might wear and the types of hobbies they’d have to how they’d decorate their home. Meanwhile, Barbiecore has been used to describe everything pink—from fashion to sofas for sale—that may have seemingly been inspired by new the movie.
Used to classify a product or trend as old, out-of-date or cringeworthy. It is predominantly negative and often used in reference to products or trends associated with millennials. So now you know if a young peer is describing your outfit as cheugy, it’s definitely not a compliment. Although, apparently even the word cheugy is becoming cheugy…
A note on acronyms and emojis
Although you won’t feel the sting of embarrassment from misusing an emoji, like you would if you thought Cheugy was a compliment, it’s still worth knowing the new rules of messaging for those days when you’re working from home.
Firstly, Gen Z apparently prefers to send a stream of small messages instead of one big note. Meanwhile, it’s out with LOL and in with IJBOL—I just burst out laughing.
Other acronyms worth noting include IYKYK (if you know you know) and W or L (for win or loss, like take the L).
Also when it comes to emojis, gone are the use of thumbs-up and smiley faces. “That’s so basic,” sums up one Gen Zer at Fortune’s office. Instead, younger workers prefer to agree to their manager’s commands using the saluting face or handshake emoji.
Meanwhile, the melting face is apparently the virtual equivalent of melting on the spot from embarrassment.